Press Release 01/95
THREE UN AGENCIES JOIN HANDS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS
Rome, 4 December 2001 - Three Rome-based UN agencies - the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) - have decided to join hands in the fight against HIV/AIDS, in coordination with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
A technical consultation on mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on food security, rural livelihoods and rural poverty will bring together experts from various institutions including the three UN agencies and Government and NGO representatives from 5 to 7 December at FAO headquarters in Rome. A follow-up to the World Aids Day of 1st December, the consultation is co-sponsored by UNAIDS, which will also be giving its technical input.
Cooperation between FAO, UNAIDS and other specialized agencies including UNDP and UNOPS will help achieve a broad-based response to HIV/AIDS on issues relating to food security and rural livelihoods. Government and NGO representatives will present their countries' experiences and objectives regarding the mitigation of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the agricultural sector. They will identify obstacles toward the attainment of those objectives and discuss ways to overcome them. Participating countries are Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Marcela Villarreal, FAO's focal point for HIV/AIDS, indicates that "inter-agency cooperation is needed in order to fight the pandemic from many angles." She points out that "HIV/AIDS is no longer just a health issue, because it is having a devastating effect on food security in many parts of the world and has undermined the hard-earned agricultural and rural development achievements of the last 40 years."
"Adequate food and good nutrition are key to helping people deal with the effects of HIV/AIDS," says Robin Landis, a WFP expert. "This is why agricultural strategies to help mitigate the consequences of the epidemic are so important."
Of the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS, an overwhelming 95 percent live in developing countries. Africa accounts for only one tenth of the world's population but has nine out of ten new cases of HIV infection. Eighty three percent of all AIDS deaths are in Africa. "Sub-Saharan Africa is the region hardest-hit by the virus, with 28.1 million people infected," states Gary Howe, Director of the East and Southern Africa Division of IFAD.
In the 25 most-affected African countries, AIDS has already killed around seven million agricultural workers since 1985, and it could kill 16 million more within the next 20 years, according to FAO. The incidence of the disease is also high in several Caribbean countries, although the spread of the epidemic in Latin America has been slower than in other regions and the disease is concentrated in urban areas.
The Rome meeting on how to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture, food security and rural poverty aims to identify innovative, gender sensitive and participatory approaches to fight HIV/AIDS in rural areas. It will devise ways of incorporating an HIV/AIDS dimension into ongoing initiatives and will recommend concrete interventions to reduce the vulnerability of poor farmers, widows and AIDS orphans.