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Until recently, HIV/AIDS was considered mainly as a health issue, and all the programmes for combating the epidemic were based on health and medical sciences. Because of this very reason, these were mainly medical organizations, which were front-line fighters against the epidemic. However, views are changing fast. The adverse effects of HIV/A1DS on development institutions and their programmes in Africa have forced the health and non-health development agencies alike to approach the problem from an entirely different angle. The HIV epidemic is now being considered as an important cross sectoral developmental issue bearing far reaching implications for policies and programming, both for the governments and international development agencies.

The loss of breadwinners due to the epidemic is leading to increased poverty and food insecurity among affected families in sub-Saharan Africa. Also professionals and other categories of skilled labour have not been spared by the epidemic. The main consequence of this calamity in many affected countries is the reversal of the social and economic progress made during the last few decades, coupled with the serious negative impact both on households and relevant organizations and institutions. This is especially true for smallholder agriculture that is considered as a vital sector for rural livelihoods and national economies in the sub-region. An enormous cost burden has been imposed on households and organizations due to diversion of resources to health care, loss of both skilled and unskilled labour, funeral costs, costs of recruiting and replacing staff, and reduction in productivity due to losses of human resources.

A. Conti/FAO/17804

HIV/AIDS has brought rural poverty and depression

Both subsistence and commercial agriculture have been affected by AIDS significantly in the way of decline in crop yields, increase in pests and diseases, and decline in the variety of crops grown in case of subsistence farming (FAO, 1994). Major financial and social crises have been created in the agro-industry due to protracted morbidity and mortality and loss of skilled and experienced labour (FAO/UNDP, 1999). The epidemic bears serious implications for policy intervention, service delivery, and programme implementation by the organizations that are responsible for providing various services to the rural population. The situation necessitates the urgency for organizations and institutions to respond to the challenges posed by the epidemic, through modifying their approaches and methodologies in order to make them more relevant to the needs of rural dwellers.

The FAO has played a significant role in highlighting the HIV/AIDS as a development issue. The 27th session of the Committee on World Food Security (June 2001) requested FAO to support Member Countries in their efforts to prevent the worsening of HIV/AIDS epidemic and to mitigate its negative effects on food security and nutrition. The same month, at the Special Session of the United Nations Assembly on HIV/AIDS, the Director-General of FAO said, “HIV/AIDS poses a serious threat to the food security of the millions who are infected and their fami-lies....Furthermore, HIV/AIDS is affecting food security at the national level, by reducing countries’ability to import food when needed”. The FAO has conducted a number of studies on the subject, including one funded by the UNDP and UNAIDS, on the impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural extension organizations in Malawi and Zambia and possible appropriate institutional response.

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