Economist Magazine Examines Report on Economic Impact of AIDS in Africa
The Economist magazine in its May 22-28 issue examined a report released on May 20 by members of United Kingdom Parliament and the Royal African Society that says the "most realistic estimates" of the economic impact of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa show that the disease has reduced the region's annual gross domestic product growth rate by an average of 0.8 percentage points. In some of the "worst-hit" countries, annual GDP growth rate has been reduced by 2.6 percentage points. According to the report, Southern Africa's agriculturally dependent economies are experiencing "food insecurity" because women -- who do more farming than men -- now represent the majority of HIV/AIDS cases in Africa. In addition, many farmers are are "too sick to work or to travel" for treatment, the Economist reports. About one-third of 1,000 South African companies surveyed in 2003 said that HIV/AIDS had "damaged their profits" because of increased absences, low morale, vacant positions and higher training costs, according to the Economist. Some companies distribute antiretroviral drugs to employees -- which can be "costly" -- but the alternative is to "let workers fall sick and die," the Economist reports. The South African government, which is "only this year beginning to provide" antiretroviral treatment at "a few dozen" public clinics, estimates that HIV/AIDS could reduce the country's annual GDP growth by one percentage point, according to the Economist.
'Lessen Its Impact'
The report calls for developed countries to provide additional assistance to sub-Saharan African countries, particularly to train doctors and nurses to replace health care workers who have emigrated to wealthier countries. In addition, the report urges African nations to domestically manufacture antiretroviral drugs and aid organizations to purchase those drugs in order to boost the countries' economies. The report also calls on the International Monetary Fund to issue a "softer line" on spending, the Economist reports. According to the Economist, "None of this would stop the epidemic, but it might lessen its impact" (Economist, 5/22).