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Press Release
UNAIDS Releases New Data Highlighting the Devastating Impact of AIDS in Africa

June 25, 2002

Geneva -- The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) released data today about the unprecedented devastation AIDS is causing in African societies and economies. Over 28 million Africans are living with HIV today, and in some countries over 30% of the adult population are infected.

"The devastating impact of HIV/AIDS is rolling back decades of development progress in Africa," said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "Every element of African society -- from teachers to soldiers to farmers -- is under attack by AIDS."

HIV/AIDS is rapidly weakening economic stability in the already fragile markets of sub-Saharan Africa. Already, the rate of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by as much as 4% because of AIDS. Labour productivity has been cut by up to 50% in the hardest-hit countries. In Zambia, nearly two-thirds of deaths among the managerial sector can be attributed to AIDS. By 2020, over 25% of the workforce may be lost to AIDS in some severely affected countries.

In rural areas, agricultural output has been severely damaged by the deaths of seven million farmers because of AIDS. One out of every five rural families in Burkina Faso are estimated to have reduced their agricultural work or even abandoned their farms because of AIDS. With fewer people available to work the land, households are often forced to farm smaller plots or switch to less labour-intensive subsistence crops, which often have lower nutritional and market value.

At the same time, national security, a prerequisite to effective development, is being undermined by AIDS in many hard-hit African nations. Ministries of Defence in these countries report HIV prevalence averages of 20-40% among soldiers, reaching as high as 50-60% in countries where HIV/AIDS has been present for more than a decade. According to the U.S. National Intelligence Council, the military cost of AIDS is likely to be highest among the more modernized armed forces in Africa, and especially in their officer ranks. As more officers and key personnel fall ill, the combat readiness and capability of those forces are expected to deteriorate, threatening the stability needed for economic and social growth.

The capacity of governments to serve their citizens is among the casualties of the epidemic, as budgets shrink and civil servants are killed by AIDS. In Botswana, for example, the government will lose 20% of public revenue by 2010 because of AIDS. In Kenya, AIDS accounts for up to three out of every four deaths in the police force. As essential services such as health, welfare, and justice falter, the most poor and vulnerable households endure the worst of the consequences.

"The facts about AIDS in Africa are harsh, but there is hope," said Dr. Piot. "Some nations have successfully turned back the epidemic with well-funded, government-supported national AIDS programmes. These efforts must be expanded to reach every person in sub-Saharan Africa. Investment in AIDS will be repaid a thousand-fold in lives saved, communities held together, and economies preserved."

For more information, please contact Anne Winter, UNAIDS, Geneva, (+41 22) 791 4577, Dominique de Santis, UNAIDS, Geneva, (+41 22) 791 4509, or Andrew Shih, UNAIDS, New York, (+1 212) 584 5030. You may also visit the UNAIDS Home Page on the Internet for more information about the programme.

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