HIV Horror - At Least 28 Million
Africans Infected, Dying

The Mail & Guardian - Johannesburg

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 said.
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 hardest-hit countries.
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 less revenue.
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 noted.
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


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