Poverty Eradication ‘Core of Sustainable’ HIV/AIDS Solution, Opinion Piece Says
Poverty eradication strategies are "at the core of a sustainable solution to HIV/AIDS" because at the "global level there is a positive correlation between HIV prevalence and poverty," Lynda Fenton of the International Health and Medical Education Center at University College London writes in a Lancet opinion piece. About 95% of HIV-positive people worldwide live in developing countries, according to Fenton. Poverty may increase susceptibility to HIV infection at "several levels," including increasing biological susceptibility through malnutrition, parasitosis, lack of access to health services and elevated probability of having other untreated sexually transmitted diseases, Fenton says. Moreover, poverty also is associated with lower levels of formal education, which make prevention and risk-reduction messages "inaccessible," according to Fenton. Impoverished people also have "restrict[ed]" choices that "leav[e] few options but to undertake 'high-risk behaviors,'" she says, adding that "when the future is bleak and immediate survival in question, the ability to take a long-term perspective on risk might seem like a luxury." However, HIV/AIDS is not a "disease of poverty," as the wealthy in some developing countries also are "especially susceptible to infection," according to Fenton, who adds that several studies have indicated a positive correlation between socio-economic status and HIV prevalence. Despite this correlation, the pattern of HIV prevalence "might be shifting towards those with lower socio-economic status," as wealthier individuals are more able to access the messages and means of prevention, according to Fenton. Therefore, poverty reduction "will be at the core of a long-term, sustainable solution to HIV/AIDS," Fenton writes, concluding that although "efforts to achieve this goal continue -- and they must -- we also need to consider the immediate steps that can be taken to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and support those affected" (Fenton, Lancet, 9/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.