HIV/AIDS Threatening Democracy, Governance in Southern African Countries, Study Says
HIV/AIDS is threatening democracy and governance in Southern African countries because of the large number of elected officials who have died of AIDS-related illnesses, according to a study recently released by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, Reuters reports.
For the study, Kondwani Chirambo, head of the Governance and AIDS Program at IDASA, and colleagues examined mortality patterns in Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. The study found that HIV/AIDS is responsible for shifts in political power and extra strains on countries' treasuries, which have to organize special elections when elected officials die.
"Our findings have shown there has been a sharp rise in the number of elected leaders that have died prematurely of illness," Chirambo said. He added, "If you compare the trends before the onset of the pandemic and after, we do see that patterns of death mimic the mortality pattern of the general population." According to Chirambo, a recent study found that between 1994 and 2006, 42 of Malawi's Members of Parliament died. According to an official statement released in 2000 by the speaker of the country's National Assembly, 28 of the deaths were AIDS-related, Chirambo said.
In Zambia, between 1985 -- the year after the first AIDS case was reported in the country -- and 2003, 102 special elections have been held, compared with 14 between 1964 and 1984. Thirty-nine of the 102 elections were the result of officials dying while in office, Reuters reports. Between 1994 and 2006, 23 vacancies in South Africa's parliament have been recorded as a result of death.
Alan Whiteside, director of health economics and the HIV/AIDS research division at the University of KwaZulu Natal, said that the study's findings indicate the HIV/AIDS pandemic is having a cumulative impact on Africa's institutions and that most African countries are not equipped to deal with it. "HIV/AIDS is having an impact not just on electoral institutions but also on government and governance, and we have underestimated this impact," Whiteside said (Felix, Reuters, 6/4).