- GENEVA - More than 28 million
Africans are living with HIV and in some countries over 30% of the adult
population is infected, according to a joint United Nations Programme on
HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) statement issued on Tuesday.
- "The devastating impact of HIV/Aids is rolling back
decades of development progress in Africa," Peter Piot, executive
director of UNAIDS, said in a statement.
- "Every element of African society -- from teachers
to soldiers to farmers -- is under attack by Aids," he added.
- HIV/Aids is wreaking havoc on Africa's fragile economy,
stifling growth and halving labour productivity in some countries, UNAIDS
- In data released on the eve of the summit of Group of
Eight (G8), which is due to consider an African development plan, UNAIDS
estimated that the rate of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa had fallen
by up to four percent because of the disease.
- Estimated average economic growth for sub-Saharan Africa,
excluding Nigeria and South Africa, was 3,1% of Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) in 2001, according to the UN.
- In the most severely affected African countries, UNAIDS
estimated that more than one-quarter of the workforce may be lost to the
immune deficiency disease by 2020.
- Labour productivity has been cut by up to 50% in the
- About seven million farmers are thought to have died
as a result of HIV/Aids, severely damaging agricultural production on the
continent, according to the agency.
- It cited the example of Burkina Faso, where one-fifth
of rural families are thought to have abandoned or reduced their farm work
because of the disease.
- With less people available to work on the land, households
are forced to farm smaller plots or to switch to less labour intensive
subsistence crops, which often have lower nutritional value and generate
- But UNAIDS also highlights the destructive impact on
the most educated sectors of the population.
- In Zambia, more than two-thirds of deaths among managers
have been attributed to Aids, while about three quarters of deaths among
Kenya's police force are caused by the disease.
- "The capacity of governments to serve their citizens
is among the casualties of the epidemic, as budgets shrink and civil servants
are killed by Aids," UNAIDS said.
- "As essential services such as health, welfare and
justice falter, the poor and most vulnerable households endure the worst
of the consequences," it added.
- In Botswana, for example, the government will lose 20%
of public revenue by 2010 because of Aids. In Kenya, Aids accounts for
up to three out of every four deaths in the police force.
- The UN also found that UNAIDS was undermining national
security, prerequisite to effective development, of African nations, with
prevalence rates of between 20% to 40% among soldiers in the most severely
infected countries reaching as high as 50%-60% in countries where HIV/Aids
has been present for more than a decade.
- "According to the US National Intelligence Council,
the military cost of Aids is likely to be the highest among the more modernised
armed forces in Africa, and especially their officer ranks," UNAIDS
- As more officers and key personnel fall ill, the combat
readiness and capability of those forces are expected to deteriorate, threatening
the stability needed for economic and social growth.
- "The facts about Aids in Africa are harsh, but there
is hope," said Dr Piot.
- "Some nations have successfully turned back the
epidemic with well-funded, government-supported national Aids programmes.
- "These efforts must be expanded to reach every person
in sub-Saharan Africa. Investment in Aids will be repaid a thousand-fold
in lives saved, communities held together, and economies preserved."
- UNAIDS is due to launch its annual report on the state
of the disease worldwide on July 2 in New York. - Sapa-AFP