Rising Food Prices Could Affect Those With HIV/AIDS, Increase Number of Women Entering Commercial Sex Trade, U.N. Officials Say
United Nations officials on Monday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City discussed how rising food prices could affect HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. The United Nations said that climbing food prices -- due to increased use of biofuels, a growing demand for grains to feed large populations in Asia, droughts and market speculation -- caused 50 million more people to go hungry in 2007 compared with 2006.
The rising food prices could force low-income women to participate in commercial sex work for basic goods and thus increase new HIV/AIDS cases, officials said.
According to Stuart Gillespie of the International Food Policy Research Institute, recent studies in Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia have found links between food shortages and sex work among low-income women. "Food is such a basic need that you can see people really going to great lengths," Fadzai Mukonoweshuro of the Food and Agriculture Organization in southern Africa said.
Experts at the conference also said malnutrition can affect the health of HIV-positive people. Antiretroviral drugs can upset the stomach if not taken with food, and people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as tuberculosis, require more nutrients and calories, Martin Bloem, chief nutritionist at the World Food Program, said.
Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS Department, said, "We really need to watch this very carefully. We are in a situation of rising oil prices, rising food prices and at the same time the cost of AIDS is going up along with new infections (Rosenberg, Reuters, 8/4).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast of a conference session on food security and HIV/AIDS is available online.