This paper is intended both for managers and technical staff working either in food
security and livelihoods or in HIV/AIDS and reproductive health who require an
introduction to the linkages between the two areas, and as a guide to the many
issues that need to be considered when carrying out assessments (or reviewing
othersвЂ™ assessments) and when planning interventions. The focus is specifically on
economic impacts of AIDS, and does not address important emotional, psychological
and social impacts.
HIV/AIDS/ Livelihoods Linkages
HIV/AIDS affects food security and livelihoods in very different ways for different
households. The impacts will vary according to the assets of the household, its
demographic composition and the circumstances in question, i.e. whether they are
affected by the chronic illness of a member, the recent death of a member, or
whether they are supporting orphans.
The mechanisms by which households are affected is best understood using a
sustainable livelihoods framework, and considering impacts on each of the different
types of assets available to the household.
During chronic illness the main effects are: loss of labour due to illness; loss of labour
due to increased caring; increased requirements for spending on healthcare.
Death leads to an immediate loss of labour, but can lead to other changes in
household composition that can positively or negatively affect labour availability. There can be changes in livelihood patterns as remaining members try to optimise
their available assets. This can lead to successful coping, or following a period of
unsustainable response (e.g. by selling productive assets) could ultimately result in
the dissolution of the household.
The economic effects of taking in an orphan depend on the existing composition of
the household and then on the age, gender and skills of the incoming orphan, which
determines the net contribution of the orphan to the household.
To understand the impacts of AIDS, we need to know what happens to a household
once it becomes affected, and the extent to which that is related to HIV/AIDS or to
other factors. Ideally there should be two sets of comparisons, therefore:
Studies must specify the definition of вЂњAIDS-affectedвЂќ and distinguish between
chronic illness, death and the support of orphans, and must then use proxy indicators
that are relevant to that group and that can be feasibly collected in the field.
A comparison of the situation of the household between when they were
unaffected and affected, i.e. the change following illness/ death/ addition of
A comparison of affected households with unaffected but otherwise similar
households, to try to control for non AIDS-related factors.
A variety of methodologies and tools are available for looking at the impacts of AIDS,
including qualitative studies, quantitative household surveys, the Household Economy Approach and Individual Household HEA. The relative strengths and
weaknesses of each approach are indicated. The decision on which approach(es) to
take should also be guided by:
Translating Linkages into Programming Responses
the specific purpose of the assessment and the type of information that is sought
the level of detail and precision that is required, and
the use to which that information will be put (e.g. is it simply to shed light on a
problem, or will it be used for designing interventions?)
A proposal to undertake programmes to mitigate the impacts of HIV/AIDS on
livelihoods should first consider how it fits into a broader programme of prevention
care and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and second whether there are equally pressing food
security problems not directly related to HIV/AIDS which also need to be addressed.
Empirical evidence to date shows that not all AIDS-affected households are food
insecure, and that many unaffected households are food insecure, and therefore the
blanket labelling of AIDS-affected households as a vulnerable group in need of food
security assistance is inappropriate. Targeting of food aid or other emergency
interventions is still best done using socio-economic/ wealth criteria rather than
demographic or health criteria.
Other issues to consider when planning food aid interventions in particular are:
Proposals for food- or cash-for-work programmes should particularly assess the
implications for household labour availability and the profitability of the work in
contexts of high HIV prevalence.
Ability to identify the target group
Potential role of stigma
Ensuring participation of women and children in programmes
Appropriate siting of distribution points and manageable packaging of rations
Designing appropriate rations, in terms of nutritional context, palatability and digestibility
School feeding is likely to be harder to justify as a response to HIV/AIDS, particularly
if it is not combined with other interventions. In particular, a school meal is unlikely to
counter-balance the increased demands on children (particularly girls) to assist at
home with caring and with productive activities, while feeding specifically targeted at
orphans or otherwise-affected children could have a stigmatising effect.
A wide variety of potential interventions could be considered in relation to enhancing
livelihoods, and these are categorised according to whether they primary address
human, financial, social, physical or natural capital. Strong emphasis on monitoring
and evaluation and on documenting experience is necessary to fill in current gaps in
knowledge of what вЂњworksвЂќ and what doesnвЂ™t in different contexts. A well thought out
combination of interventions вЂ“ particularly if they build upon possible synergies
between one another and with interventions in other sectors relating to prevention,
care and treatment вЂ“ will be most effective.