News / Africa

Food Security, HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention Closely Linked

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

To ensure food security for a rapidly growing global population, governments are investing heavily in agriculture.  But food policy experts say that investment must include HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

HIV/AIDS and food have been inextricably linked from the time the pandemic began sweeping across the continent.

The disease struck the ranks of farmers hard, leaving the livelihoods of millions of people in jeopardy.  Before treatments were available, those infected with HIV knew that starvation would kill them quicker than the virus.  So, they demanded health workers give them food before agreeing to learn about safe sex.  Today, even for those receiving anti-retroviral treatment, food is essential to make that therapy effective.

For food security to be achieved in the coming years, experts say HIV/AIDS must be part of the plan.  That was the reason for a meeting this week in Cape Town, South Africa, where experts discussed a decade of work on HIV and nutrition security.

HIV, food and farms

Stuart Gillespie is director of RENEWAL, the Regional Network on AIDS, Livelihoods and Food Security, with hubs in southern African countries.

He says, “Originally, we looked at the ways in which HIV/AIDS may exacerbate food insecurity by the stress it places on the household, particularly the most productive household members.  And we have documented ways in which through labor shortages, through diversion of labor within the households, it affected the ability of households to actually engage in agriculture.  And agriculture itself is still the number one source of livelihood for most people affected by HIV on the planet.”

The effects of the pandemic on farmers can still be seen today.  Gillespie says it helped to create haves and have-nots.

“In some ways, HIV has made certain farmers actually richer.  They’ve been better able to buy off land from people who are desperate to sell because they’re in a situation of distress and they’re starting to sell off assets possibly due to AIDS, possibly due to AIDS plus other factors, like the food crisis.  So you see the interconnections,” he says.

HIV/AIDS also affected agricultural extension services, which provide farmers with support and technical expertise.

Gillespie says, “During a five-year period between 2002 and 2007 in both Malawi and Zambia, one in eight agricultural extension workers had actually died of HIV during that period.  And the quality of extension that was available due to these staff shortages, which were not made up, declined, significantly.  People weren’t able to do their jobs properly in agricultural extension.  Farmers were therefore not able to avail themselves to new technologies.”

High prices, food shortages

When the food crisis struck a few years ago, Gillespie says it had a detrimental effect on HIV/AIDS programs in Africa.

“We had documented it two years ago during the last food price hikes that these kind of dramatic rises in prices can significantly impact prevention issues, prevention strategies with HIV.  They can impact treatment, the ability of people to remain on drugs when they’re too hungry, when they cannot afford to buy food to meet the increased appetite they have [when] on the drugs.  And it will also affect mitigation because households are grappling with other financial and economic problems, as well as HIV,” he says.

He says people will stop taking anti-retroviral drugs if they can’t get enough to eat.  Food is necessary to help counter the side effects of the drugs.

“They need 30 percent extra calories alone on treatment.”

Gillespie is also a senior research fellow with IFPRI, the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.  He says without food security, the progress made against HIV/AIDS may be lost.

“If people are stopping drugs because they are too hungry to take the drugs without feeling completely sick – if they’re stopping the drugs and compliance levels drop below 90 percent – we’re in a situation where the virus becomes resistant to the drugs.  And therefore, we need second line therapies or third line therapies, which are going to be a lot more expensive and even more difficult to resource in the current climate of austerity,” he says.

Food experts and HIV/AIDS organizations are joining forces to find ways of better integrating food security policies with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.  That includes helping ensure the health of African farmers.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs