Two prominent humanitarian organizations have asked the world's agricultural institutions to urgently address the HIV epidemic ravaging rural areas in a number of developing countries.

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the U.N. Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) issued a joint report Monday, calling for stepped up efforts to address the link between the deadly disease and agricultural production.

The directors of both agencies also expressed concern over the nearly 30 million HIV-infected people in sub-Saharan Africa.

They said more than half of those with the disease live in rural areas, and that many were located in low-income areas where food is scarce. They also said AIDS has killed an estimated seven million African agricultural workers in the past 18 years.

They added 16 million more could die by the year 2020, and said this could lead the victims' families to lose nearly half their nutritional supply.

Among its recommendations, the joint report called for increased awareness and AIDS education for agricultural ministry employees, many of whom also have HIV/AIDS. The report also says rural and farming institutions should include the implications of AIDS on agricultural into their core policies - especially when creating an operating budget.