In Durban, South Africa, a three-day conference opened Thursday to examine the link between HIV/AIDS and hunger. About 200 development experts from Africa and elsewhere are discussing how to fight the pandemic while preventing malnutrition and food insecurity.
Stuart Gillespie is the chief organizer of the conference called “HIV/AIDS and Food and Nutrition Security.” He’s a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. From Durban, he told English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua that evidence shows a strong link between the disease and hunger in Africa.
He says, “We have actually researched and collected together evidence from something like 155 studies, most of which have actually been undertaken over the last four or five years and most of which have come from this area of the world in Africa, eastern and southern Africa…There are two things that can be said. The first is that there is clearly a strong interaction taking place in most cases between HIV and hunger, but it goes both ways. HIV is worsening and exacerbating situations of hunger for more and more people, but those situations of hunger and people coming from households, which are food insecure, are putting people at risk of even being exposed to the virus. But the second thing to say really is that those interactions and impacts are different for different countries and even different districts within countries.”
HIV/AIDS has hit the agricultural sector hard. Mr. Gillespie says, “One statistic that is mentioned and it’s been corroborated from a few micro-level studies, is that today something like eight million agricultural laborers have died from HIV/AIDS and over the period of the next 10 years we may see an additional eight million dying from the virus.”
He says countries that develop food and agricultural policies without taking HIV/AIDS into account are likely to see those policies fail.