Toronto’s Globe and Mail Profiles AIDS Epidemic in Swaziland
Toronto's Globe and Mail in a series of articles this week profiled the AIDS epidemic in Swaziland, which has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate. An estimated 38.6% of adults in the country are HIV-positive, according to the country's latest national survey. The epidemic has been fueled by polygamy, women's lack of autonomy, poverty and migrant workers who visit commercial sex workers, according to the Globe and Mail. Although the country is in "desperate need" of international assistance, donors are becoming increasingly wary of the spending practices of King Mswati III, the Globe and Mail reports. However, the government is set to begin a national program to provide free antiretroviral drugs and has an "excellent" National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS, which has developed a computer system to track HIV-positive people and their drug adherence and a program to mobilize communities to care for the country's "swelling" orphan population, according to the Globe and Mail. The number of orphans in the country is expected to double from 60,000 to 120,000 by 2010 (Nolen, Globe and Mail, 3/24). In addition, the country plans to ask for a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to provide payment to women who care for AIDS orphans. The women, who are "at the core of Swaziland's AIDS response plan," currently are unpaid, according to the Globe and Mail. Lewis said that the program could "set a dramatic precedent on the continent" (Nolen, Globe and Mail, 3/25).
Drought, AIDS Create Food Shortages
The combined impact of drought and the AIDS epidemic over the past three years has changed Swaziland from a country that "could more than feed itself" to one where 25% of the population is dependent on food aid, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said last week, the Globe and Mail reports (Globe and Mail, 3/24) . When farmers die, they lose indigenous crops and orphaned children do not learn how to farm, according to the Globe and Mail. In addition, people who are malnourished are more susceptible to the virus, creating a "vicious cycle," the Globe and Mail reports. "Again and again, we at the World Food Programme are struck by the fact that one of the first things that impoverished AIDS sufferers ask for is food," WFP Executive Director James Morris said, adding, "Not medicine, but plain, simple food" (Nolen, Globe and Mail, 3/26).