What are the implications of HIV/AIDS for our understanding of crisis and
humanitarian aid? HIV/AIDS is both a long-term crisis in its own right, and
a contributory factor in acute emergencies. The epidemic presents key
challenges for both humanitarian and development assistance, and for the
interface between them.
The crisis in southern Africa during 2002 and 2003 highlighted the
complex connections between HIV/AIDS, food security and
famine. This briefing paper examines the implications of
HIV/AIDS for our understanding of crisis and of the role of
humanitarian aid therein. The disease is clearly a massive crisis in
its own right: to the extent that humanitarian response is
concerned with increased levels of mortality and morbidity, HIV/AIDS
can clearly be described as an emergency. However, it is a longterm
crisis, and its impacts will be felt for decades.
HIV/AIDS is one of many factors contributing to food insecurity. It
important to understand how the impact of HIV/AIDS relates to other
factors, such as drought and conflict, to create acute
humanitarian crises. HIV/AIDS acts at many different levels:
HIV/AIDS has profound humanitarian consequences, both
by directly causing illness and death and in terms of the wider
impact it is having on societies. These consequences will develop
over decades, meaning that existing models of humanitarian
may not be appropriate. Equally, existing models of development
assistance are likely to prove inadequate. The challenges raised
by the pandemic are only beginning to be fully appreciated.
It undermines the ways in which people have traditionally coped with famine.
It may increase mortality in famines, as people with AIDS will
be less able to cope with reduced food intake and
additional disease burdens.
Issues associated with crisis may add to the risks of transmission
of HIV/AIDS and contribute to the epidemic's spread.
This HPG Research Briefing and the report on which it is
based has two main aims:
Findings are based on fieldwork in southern Africa, where HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are the highest in the
world. As HIV/AIDS rates are still rising in other parts of Africa and the developing world, some of the lessons
from southern Africa may be applicable elsewhere.
To investigate the relationship between HIV/AIDS and humanitarian crisis.
To examine the role of humanitarian aid in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.