AIDS epidemic worsens in rural areas
FAO tackles problem on several fronts
1 December 2006, Rome – Despite improvements in HIV prevalence rates in some countries, the epidemic is continuing to worsen in rural areas in the developing world, where up to 70 percent of the population depend on agriculture for subsistence, and the spread of HIV and AIDS is further intensifying poverty and vulnerability, FAO said on World AIDS Day.
“The AIDS epidemic is having a devastating impact on rural populations in developing countries. The heavy loss of agricultural labour in countries where the majority of the population lives in rural areas is likely to affect productivity, food production, food security and poverty for decades to come,” said Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO’s Gender and Population Division.
“Even in countries where antiretroviral treatment possibilities are increasing, it is unlikely that they will be made available to a large number of people in poor rural areas. By undermining food production, the epidemic also aggravates the vicious circle of hunger and poverty,” said Villarreal.
In response to some of these challenges, FAO is using a range of strategies to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
FAO assists countries in the development and implementation of agricultural policies and strategies aimed at preventing and mitigating the impact of the epidemic on poor and rural households.
Labour-saving technologies have been introduced in an effort to address AIDS-related labour shortages. FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools ensure that children orphaned by AIDS gain agricultural knowledge and skills that would otherwise be lost following the death of their parents.
Food and nutrition programmes have been launched, improving people’s immune systems and helping fend off opportunistic diseases.
FAO also assists countries in the promotion of gender equality, especially regarding access to and ownership of productive resources.
In Zimbabwe, FAO has been assisting the Government in the development and implementation of an agricultural sector policy. These efforts have culminated in Zimbabwe’s first Agricultural Sector Strategy on HIV/AIDS, a five-year plan recently launched by the Government.
The plan involves launching an agricultural management information system to monitor health issues and service delivery. It also stipulates a need to accurately assess the cost of HIV and AIDS to farming communities, as well as exploring the extent to which rural households are vulnerable to the epidemic.
These interventions, supported by FAO, are crucial steps in establishing an effective national response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Media Relations, FAO
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