AIDS epidemic is disaster like drought, floods for Africa: Red Cross
June 26, 2008 - 10:46AM, Source: ABC
The AIDS epidemic in southern Africa is so severe that it should be classed as a disaster comparable to floods or famine, a new study by the Red Cross says.
In its annual "World Disasters Report", the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that there was "no doubt" that HIV/AIDS matches the United Nations definition of a disaster.
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs classes a disaster as a "serious disruption of the functioning of a society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of a society to cope using only its own resources".
The IFRC said that such a situation exists in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to about two-thirds of the world's HIV-positive cases.
At least one person in ten is living with HIV in nations such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia, the report said.
The consequences of the epidemic are felt by all of society and not just those who are sick, due to the economic strain and social tensions.
"Reflecting on the lives of most people living in sub-Saharan Africa raises more alarm than hope," the IFRC said.
"The virus is directly responsible for restraining and reducing human and resource capacities across societies because HIV infections and AIDS deaths are common among workers of all qualifications and expertise, and in all industries.
"Coupled with the high costs of caring for people living with HIV, those capacity constraints lead to withered health and education systems, declining food security, skilled labour shortages and an increasingly ramshackled infrastructure," the report warned.