ROME (Reuters) - Agricultural development is key to winning the
war on AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa as grinding poverty is
fueling prostitution and worsening the pandemic, delegates at a
United Nations seminar said on Wednesday.
"People who have enough food do not need to sell their body to
get food that day," Marcela Villarreal, the leading authority
on AIDS at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, told the
"Many AIDS orphans have no alternative livelihood."
Villarreal told Reuters later: "Food security is a very strong
weapon to reduce the vulnerability of many rural people in the
developing world to AIDS."
Another keynote speaker, Jacques du Guerny, a former head of
FAO's population program service, said: "The agricultural
sector, although it may not fully realize it, is the key to the
future of the AIDS epidemic in many developing countries."
Training programs in farming and other skills are imperative.
"I am talking about improving the technical skills of people so
that they can improve their income, so that they have other
choices than having to sell their bodies," he told Reuters at
FAO headquarters in Rome.
WAR CHEST TO FIGHT AIDS
A new global war chest to combat AIDS and other diseases should
allocate funds to agricultural development, as well as the
medical care of victims, delegates said.
"We have to mobilize many more funds through the agricultural
sector," said Villarreal, chief of FAO's population program
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched a global fund to
fight AIDS and other diseases at a Group of Eight summit in the
Italian city of Genoa in July, and said the rich industrialized
nations plus Russia had pledged more than $1.2 billion.
According to World Bank figures, the average annual loss in
gross domestic product (GDP) per capita due to HIV/AIDS is
around one percent in Africa.
"The middle generation is being lost," she said, noting that
most victims were between 15 and 49 years old.
FAO, which monitors food supplies around the world, said that
in Africa's 25 worst affected countries seven million
agricultural workers had died from AIDS since 1985 and 16
million more might die by 2020.
Africa, with about 10 percent of the world's population,
accounts for nine out of every 10 new cases of HIV infection.
Some 83 percent of all AIDS-related deaths have occurred in
Africa, the United Nations says. Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest
hit, with 28.1 million people infected.
Of the 13.2 million AIDS orphans worldwide, more than 12
million are in Africa.
The FAO conference, which has brought together experts from
U.N. food agencies and non-governmental organizations, ends on