Poverty, which is widespread in rural areas, leads to poor nutrition and poor health, which make a person more vulnerable to HIV infection. Poor health can also shorten the incubation period of the virus, causing symptoms to appear sooner. This situation is especially severe for the rural poor, who have the least access to medical care.
Poverty also makes education and access to mass media and other sources of information more difficult. The poor are less able to equip themselves with the knowledge to prevent the risk of transmission.HIV/AIDS causes a sharp increase in poverty, especially rural poverty, as people sell productive assets to pay for health and funeral costs.
Poverty and mobility are critical dimensions of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The main driving force behind rural migratory movements is poverty and the lack of livelihood opportunities in rural areas. Migrant workers who are away from home for extended periods of time are more likely to engage in unprotected casual or commercial sex, thus increasing their risk of exposure to HIV transmission.
The agriculture sector plays an important role in influencing migratory patterns. For example, infrastructure projects may pave the way for increased agricultural production and marketing but may also encourage high levels of labour mobility and temporary migration. Those less mobile groups who remain in rural areas have to manage the impacts of the HIV epidemic with a dwindling resource base. At the same time, as an increasing number of HIV-infected urban dwellers return to their rural communities for care, survival strategies become stretched, food security threatened and poverty increases.