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HIV/AIDS and socio-economic development in Southern Africa

HIV/AIDS and food security

Compiled by Clive Bepura, SADC FANR


September 2002

Posted with permission of the author
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Improved transport networks, trade and migration have led to greater links of communities between and within rural and urban areas. This, coupled with the co-existence of poverty and affluence, a breakdown of culture coupled with a tendency for high life leading to loose morals and promiscuity, has rapidly increased the transmission and prevalence of HIV/AIDS in both urban and remote areas. No other crisis has ever presented such an enormity of a practical threat to human life, social and economic progress as with the case of HIV/AIDS pandemic. Even if a miracle was to occur and HIV/AIDS eliminated today, the widespread damage and adverse socio-economic effects already suffered on the part of social and economic development will be felt for decades to come.

The pandemic has risen to such proportions that it can no longer be considered a problem of the health sector alone. Unfortunately, "the realization that we need to focus on AIDS as a development rather than just a health problem has only really come in the last year or two", said Stuart Gillespie in 2001 in "The Unfinished Agenda; Perspectives on Overcoming Hunger, Poverty and Environmental Degradation". Though health-oriented strategies to combat HIV/AIDS have been under way since the 1980s, attempts to address the socio-economic repercussions of illness and death on such a massive scale have only just begun.

Thus HIV/AIDS requires a concerted approach from all sectors to address its social, financial, economic and institutional consequences. Given the critical role of the human capital in all industries, the destruction of both skilled and unskilled labour in the various sectors has forward and backward consequences on economic activity. As a result, the pandemic is taking a great toll on all dimensions of food security; availability, access and food use. Presently each day at least 10 000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa are infected and doomed to die by the year 2010. The death of so many most productive adults will continue to have devastating impact on individual families, communities and national economies.

This paper explores the dimensions of HIV/AIDS at the global and sub-Saharan level, delving into implications for agriculture and food security or rather general economic development, particularly for the southern African region. The paper also discusses actions that can be undertaken to mitigate the effects of the disaster as well as constraints to the effectiveness of such actions. Lastly it looks at the SADC FANR's latest regional response to the pandemic.

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