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A 65-year-old Malawian woman with six of her nine grandchildren, whose parents have died of AIDS (UNICEF/HQ93-0757/Andrew)
food security


The impacts of HIV/AIDS on poor rural populations are many and intertwined. The impacts can be felt most dramatically in entrenched poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, in the reduction of the labour force, and in the loss of essential knowledge that is transmitted from generation to generation. And the impacts are felt disproportionately among women.

What's more, these same consequences of HIV/AIDS - poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, reduced labour force and loss of knowledge - contribute to making the rural poor more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection. This devastating cycle must be broken, and the agricultural sector has a critical role to play.

It is estimated that 42 million people in the world are infected with the HIV virus. Assuming that each HIV/AIDS case directly influences the lives of four other individuals, at least 168 million people are likely to be affected by the epidemic. And approximately 95 percent of them live in develping countries.

key facts

AIDS has killed around 7 million agricultural workers since 1985 in the 25 hardest-hit countries in Africa. It could kill 16 million more before 2020

the most-affected African countries could lose up to 26 percent of their agricultural labour force within two decades

food consumption has been found to drop by 40 percent in homes afflicted by HIV/AIDS

total spending on AIDS in Africa, which goes largely to prevention, is just US$150 million a year. Barely one tenth comes from national budgets in the region

in 2000, close to 3 million people died of AIDS and 5.3 million became infected around the world

by 1999, there were 13.2 million AIDS orphans, 95 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa

HIV infection rates are three to five times higher in young women than in young men

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