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Agriculture Seen Key to Winning War on AIDS




 

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 seminar.

"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 service.

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 Friday.



 


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Information in this article was accurate in December 5, 2001. 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.