About 20% of Southern African Farm Workers Will Die of AIDS-Related Causes by 2020, Researchers Say
About 20% of Southern African agricultural workers are expected to die of AIDS-related causes by 2020, which could threaten food production and worsen food shortages, researchers said on Thursday at a World Health Organization meeting on nutrition and HIV/AIDS in Durban, South Africa, Reuters reports. However, the region's high unemployment rate could mean that a reduction in the work force would not affect production. "It's not as simple as to say that there will be a one-fifth reduction of the crop," Smangaliso Hllengwa, an HIV/AIDS expert and adviser to the New Partnership for Africa's Development, said, adding, "But it's obviously going to have a significant impact." Farmers in South Africa -- which is the region's largest food producer -- say they have lost about 20% of their workers over the last five years, but production in the country has remained unchanged because work is "much sought after," according to Reuters. However, experts say that the the loss of income among families of agricultural workers who die could be "devastating," according to Reuters (Apps, Reuters, 4/14).
Food, Antiretrovirals Needed To Fight AIDS
Stuart Gillespie, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, on Thursday at the conference said that malnutrition and food insecurity could help accelerate the spread of HIV by weakening people's immune systems and making them more susceptible to infection, the SAPA/iafrica.com reports. However, HIV-positive people who are well-nourished are less likely to develop AIDS or die of AIDS-related causes, he said. Gillespie added that access to both antiretrovirals and proper nutrition is important to fight the epidemic, according to the SAPA/iafrica.com. Joseph Tumushabe, a development consultant at the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, said the type of food eaten by HIV-positive people in Africa is not the issue, "the question is whether they are accessing food at all" (SAPA/iafrica.com, 4/14). The conference, which is being attended by health specialists and social workers from 20 Eastern and Southern African countries, plans to make recommendations for immediate actions in Africa to improve the health and nutrition of people living with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/11).