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International News

HIV/AIDS Epidemic Hits Food Output in Africa

July 1, 2003

Millions of people are threatened with hunger and poverty as the AIDS epidemic in Africa takes a toll on farm output, UN agencies said Monday. "The majority of African countries worst-hit by HIV/AIDS are also those heavily reliant on agriculture," said UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot. "For many rural households in these countries, AIDS has turned what used to be a food shortage into a food crisis," Piot added.

The agency issued a joint report on the food crisis with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which estimated that 7 million agricultural workers in the 25 worst-hit African countries have been lost to AIDS since 1985. The report warned that the disease could claim another 16 million people by 2020.

"Hunger and poverty, aggravated by HIV/AIDS, create a vicious spiral," according to Jacques Diouf, director general of UNFAO. "Many children are losing their parents before learning how to farm, to prepare food and to fend for themselves. Severe malnutrition among orphans is already reported in the worst affected areas."

The two UN agencies estimate that about 30 million of the world's 42 million people with HIV/AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa, over half of them in rural areas. Up to 80 percent of the southern African population depends on small-scale agriculture for food and livelihood. "We will see more and more what we have seen recently in southern Africa: a vicious circle of poverty, hunger, and AIDS, working in a synergistic way and exacerbating each other," said Piot.

The dramatic impact of HIV/AIDS on African farming is felt not only by the large numbers of agricultural workers affected but also by agronomists and many government officials who themselves are falling victim to the disease. "It is absolutely important that ministries of agriculture must tackle AIDS as one of their core priorities," said Piot. But he acknowledged this will become more of a challenge for ministries as key staff members succumb to HIV/AIDS.

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Adapted from:
Agence France Presse

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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.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS in Africa