Monday, September 9, 2002


UNAIDS says food shortage is worsening AIDS in Zimbabwe

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — UNAIDS said Monday food shortages in Zimbabwe were worsening AIDS infections and deaths in the southern African country.

The agency said food shortages, which affected an estimated six million people in the country, was prompting girls and women to trade sex for food, and weakening the immune systems of those suffering from AIDS.

Zimbabwe is one of at least six southern African countries currently facing food shortages due to drought, and has appealed for international humanitarian assistance to avert mass starvation.

"People are more likely to get infected and re-infected in times of starvation, and people who are HIV-positive are more likely to face the degeneration of their immune system," UNAIDS said.

"Statistical analyses show that HIV prevalence is correlated with falling calorie consumption, falling protein consumption and other variables conventionally associated with susceptibility to infectious disease," it added.

The agency said it estimated about 2.2 million people in Zimbabwe were stricken by AIDS, and warned the figure and severity of the pandemic was likely to increase sharply due to shortages of food in the country.

"The food shortage is leading to an increase in prostitution and other risky behaviour of women and girls in particular," UNAIDS said.

It said the food shortages were particularly a blow to children, a growing number of whom were being forced by parents to drop out of school and engage in child labour to raise money for food.

An estimated 5,000 people in Zimbabwe die of AIDS every week, and the World Health Organisation says it is one of the worst hit countries in the world.

The government has declared AIDS a national disaster.

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Created: September 12, 2002
Last modified: September 12, 2002
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