Examining Relationship Between HIV/AIDS, Food Shortages In Southern Africa

Armen Hareyan's picture

IRIN Newson Wednesday examined how HIV/AIDS and food shortages in SouthernAfrica are "reinforcing each other." According to the recently releasedbook, "Silent Hunger: Policy Options for Effective Responses to theImpact of HIV and AIDS on Agriculture and Food Security in the SADCRegion," food shortages and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa are "leading toa potentially tragic new level of famine."

"Silent Hunger" isbased on a study that examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in the sevenmost-affected countries in Southern Africa: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia,South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The study -- which wascommissioned by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network-- found that in Botswana, 81% of respondents had three or more mealsdaily before becoming HIV-positive, compared with 49% who had three ormore meals daily after contracting the virus. In addition, abouttwo-people years of labor are lost by the time one person dies ofAIDS-related causes because of illness and time spent providing care,according to the book.


HIV-associated hunger typically affects"productive," or adult, family members first, whereas traditionaldrought-related famines often affect dependent family members -- suchas children and elderly -- first, the book says. In addition, the booksays that because of social and cultural traditions, women often "bearthe brunt of the epidemic" by caring for people living with HIV/AIDSand by being at higher risk of HIV transmission.

According to a recently released World Bankreport on agriculture, there is a "tremendous scope" for agriculturepolicy to respond to HIV. The report called for the promotion oflabor-saving technology and crops to address labor losses resultingfrom AIDS-related deaths. According to Marcela Villarreal, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization'sfocal point for HIV/AIDS, the agency has encouraged some countries todevelop policies to assist farmers affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition,the agency has developed Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools -- inwhich children ages 12 to 17 who have been affected by HIV/AIDS receiveeducation in agricultural techniques, entrepreneurship and HIV/AIDS --in 10 Southern and Eastern African countries.

The main sourcesof income for many families in the region affected by HIV/AIDS includegovernment food parcels, pension grants, orphan and foster care grants,and child grants because many families are unable to make an incomethrough farming, IRIN News reports. According to LindiweMajele Sibanda, executive director of FANPRAN, longitudinal householdsurveys are needed in Southern Africa to track the impact of HIV/AIDSon agriculture and food security. "We need trend analyses if we are toadequately inform policy development," Sibanda said, adding thatsmaller studies are "not giving a full picture of the pandemic'simpact" (IRIN News, 10/31).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.