HIV/AIDS & Disease

Globally, poverty and HIV/AIDS are inextricably linked.  In both developed and developing nations, the predominant groups of individuals infected with HIV/AIDS are men and women aged 18-45, those in the prime of their productive life.  Thus, HIV/AIDS has a huge impact on poverty because it affects millions of individuals whose work drives their countries’ economies and services, and who care for the young and old.  While HIV/AIDS pushes more families into poverty, their poverty conversely impacts their ability to fight the disease.  For example, if people are well-nourished, they are less likely to fall ill; children can go to school if they are not forced to care for sick relatives, or become orphans; if women are not made destitute by being widowed and having their property seized, they are less likely to have to resort to sex in exchange for food, shelter or money, thereby increasing their risk of infection; and if men do not have to migrate to find work, the virus spread may be diminished.  The cause and effect cycle of HIV/AIDS and poverty must be broken to successfully defeat either issue.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has hit Malawi hard and has dealt a significant blow to Malawi’s prospects for economic growth and poverty reduction. Fiscal resources are necessarily redirected from productive development uses to the care of the sick, irreplaceable human capital is being lost typically at the prime of their income producing capacity, and hundreds of thousands of children and adults are being left impoverished. Sub-Saharan Africa is the current epicenter of the HIV/AIDS crisis with just over 10% of the world’s population, but 95% of the world’s AIDS orphans and 60% of all people infected by HIV. (Source: UNAIDS, UNICEF and USAID, 2004)  Malawi’s HIV prevalence rate has stabilized between 12% and 14% depending on reporting agencies. (Source: World Bank, 2010)

Globally, funding and access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment has increased dramatically.  However, in Malawi, the battle against this disease, and others such as malaria, is compromised by the acute shortage of qualified medical personnel.  Malawi has less than two doctors per 100,000 people, the lowest for any country covered by the UNDP’s Human Development Report. The challenge is made worse by migration. At the turn of the millennium, the country was training approximately 60 nurses per year, but losing at least 100 others to work abroad.  (Source: United Nations Statistics Bureau)

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