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FAO was the first UN agency to initiate detailed sectoral analysis of the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on rural economies. Thus, right from the beginning, FAO perceived the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a development problem of critical importance, rather than simply a health issue.

There seems to be growing consensus that the HIV/AIDS epidemic will not be contained as long as it is regarded as only a health sector issue and not placed within the overall context of development. A strong political commitment to fight the epidemic is necessary to enable a comprehensive and integrated approach to alleviate the widespread impact of the disease and to address issues of poverty and powerlessness. Many governments in sub-Saharan Africa are in the process of developing a national strategic plan for a multisectoral response to HIV/AIDS. This exercise has evolved with the assistance of the Global AIDS Program me (GPA/WHO) and is now followed up by the Joint United Nations Program me on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). In these plans each of the key sectors is assigned activities based on their comparative advantage. Ministries of agriculture need to participate in national AIDS control programmes and discuss with the authorities of other relevant sectors the role of agriculture in a multisectoral approach to HIV/AIDS.

In view of the rapid spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in rural areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, socio-economic and cultural research (through rapid assessment surveys) needs to be conducted on the impact of the disease on agricultural production systems, household food security, traditional coping mechanisms, etc. to enable the development of appropriate prevention and mitigation strategies. The following considerations and activities are suggested to launch joint HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation strategies for rural households/communities:

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