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Addressing the HIV/AIDS–food insecurity syndemic in sub-Saharan Africa

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Recently a few vocal health experts have suggested that some of the billions of dollars currently used to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS be reallocated to address more basic problems such as malnutrition, tuberculosis, malaria, and enteric and diarrheal disease caused by lack of access to clean water. While not universally agreed upon, this reassessment of policy priorities acknowledges that there are multiple other health problems that deserve renewed attention from the international community. It also highlights the fact that the impacts of the HIV pandemic are exacerbated by widespread poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, and gender inequality. Nowhere is this more evident than in sub-Saharan Africa, where multiple epidemics conflate and seriously compromise the survival of individuals and communities. Given the widespread occurrence of famine in sub-Saharan Africa, issues of food and economic security become of paramount importance in efforts to address the region's HIV epidemics. This paper examines the historical, political-economic, and cultural dimensions of the HIV epidemic in the context of the growing problem of food and economic insecurity. Furthermore, using theoretical frameworks that emphasize the dynamic interrelation between HIV/AIDS and food insecurity, we present suggestions for combining traditional HIV-prevention strategies with food production and nutrition-education programming. In light of the complex interactions between HIV/AIDS and food insecurity and the lack of accessible treatment modalities, such programming could potentially reduce the risk for transmission of HIV through behavioural changes and improved nutritional and immune status, and increase the life expectancy of people living with HIV or AIDS.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-12-01

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