South Africa Takes Small Steps to Fight AIDS on Farms
June 19, 2006
During the past two years, 26 percent of 638 people tested on farms in northern and central South Africa had HIV, according to figures by AgriAIDS, an organization that has been testing workers and providing free antiretrovirals (ARVs). Of those who were HIV-positive, 173 are now receiving food supplements and 46 are receiving ARVs. Five have died.
In a recently released annual report, UNAIDS said South Africa's agricultural workforce could decline by more than 15 percent by 2020 due to HIV/AIDS. The report cited estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Gretha Kotswinder, agricultural counselor at the Dutch embassy who works on HIV/AIDS projects, said, "The farmers have not yet realized the cost of the pandemic. Training people is expensive and there is a significant impact on productivity."
"The infection rate in some farms can be as high as up to 55 percent, especially in the remote areas bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique," said Marianne van der Laarse, who works on HIV/AIDS intervention projects for the farm produce promoter SA Veg. She said big business should be encouraged to make a difference in the sector that accounts for 7.5 percent of the country's workforce of 12 million.
"Leading retailers, for instance, can be encouraged to source their goods from farms which have launched some kind of AIDS program," van der Laarse said. "Farmers also have to see absenteeism in monetary terms to realize the impact," she added.
The farmers' organization AgriSA is considering a comprehensive strategy to deal with HIV/AIDS. "There are a number of individual projects by non-governmental bodies and some individual farmers," said AgriSA official Kobus Kleynhans. "We are looking at coordinating the efforts and building up synergies."
Analyst Russell Lamberti predicts farmers will increasingly shift from men to machines to ensure productivity.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.