This was the message on Thursday from an international conference in Durban examining the link between
HIV/AIDS, agriculture and food and nutrition security. Malnutrition and food insecurity heighten susceptibility to HIV exposure and infection, while Aids in turn exacerbates hunger and malnutrition, said Stuart Gillespie of the International Food Policy and Research Institute.
Gillespie said agriculture was the main source of livelihood for the majority of people infected with HIV. According to conference statistics seven million farmers had died of Aids in 27 countries since 1985.
'We need an African solution to an African challenge' Gillespie said both antiretrovirals and food were needed at the same time to fight the epidemic. He said although the quality of food, particularly the intake of micro-nutrients was essential, he did not believe that genetically modified food was a health risk.
Joseph Tumushabe, a development consultant with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said the type of food eaten is not an issue in Africa, the question is whether they are accessing food at all.
He questioned why antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) had been made so special that they were freely accessible and why they could not be obtained from the same people who supplied malaria drugs.
We need an African solution to an African challenge, said Tumushabe. He said the Botswana the government had made ARVs freely available but the uptake has been very low because of the stigma of
HIV/AIDS. He it had been an eye-opener to the world when, in 2002, southern Africa could not feed its populations.
Tumushabe said in Africa, rural dwellers were doubly burdened by AIDS, as children orphaned in urban areas were often sent to relatives in rural areas.
(Source: IOL Website, April 14, 2005)