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Southern Africa: HIV/AIDS as a security issue


JOHANNESBURG, 6 Feb 2003 (IRIN) - The HIV/AIDS pandemic has become a human security and governance issue no less destructive than warfare itself, according to a new project aimed at exploring the impact of the disease on security in Southern Africa.

The Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on Thursday launched the "AIDS and Security" project to study the linkages between stability, security and governance in the region, which has the world's highest rates of HIV/AIDS.

A recently published ISS research paper found that HIV/AIDS could complicate attempts at post-conflict reconstruction in countries with high HIV prevalence rates.

"Efforts at demilitarisation and reintergrating combatants may be threatened when combatants return to dying families and villages; and by the breakdown of government, police and civil society to the point that they may be useless in filling the gap the military leaves behind," the paper said.

"Generally immediately after conflict, there is a surge in HIV prevalence rates because of all the movement within the country. It will be difficult to develop that country - not just in terms of demobilisation but also economically - when this happens," Martin Schonteich, the head of the AIDS and Security project at ISS, told IRIN.

While humanitarian agencies had factored this into their response to a certain extent, they had not fully taken the role of HIV/AIDS into account, particularly in their reconstruction efforts in post-war Angola, he noted.

Coupled with population pressures and trends such as migration and urbanisation, HIV/AIDS could also create more "volatile" social and political situations. "It can aggravate and provoke social fragmentation and political polarisation," Schonteich said.

The increasing number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS was another concern. Poor living conditions, malnourishment and a lack of education "trapped" these children into a cycle of poverty, leading to an environment conducive to crime and exploitation.


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Information in this article was accurate in February 7, 2003. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.