UNFPAState of World Population 2002
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(Not for release before 3 December 2002)

Multiple Dimensions of Poverty
Macroeconomics, Poverty, Population and Development
Poverty and Gender
Poor Health and Poverty
HIV/AIDS and Poverty
Poverty and Education
Population, Poverty and Global Development Goals: The Way Ahead

HIV/AIDS and Poverty

HIV/AIDS poses a great threat to development in poor coun-tries and the impact is hardest among the poor. Striking 14,000 men, women and children daily, AIDS is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa and the world’s fourth biggest killer. By 2010, about 40 million children will have been orphaned by the pandemic.

Women are more vulnerable to infection and sex workers are far more likely than the population at large to be infected. But the sexual behaviour of men is largely responsible for spreading the disease.

One half of new HIV infections are among young people aged 15-24, many of whom have no information or prevention services and are still ignorant about the epidemic and how to protect themselves. Studies in seven African countries show that at least 40 per cent of 15-19 year olds did not believe they were at risk.

The health-care system in Africa is overwhelmed and health workers are being struck down, leaving a decimated staff to confront an exploding crisis. Education systems are also collapsing. A recent forum in Cameroon suggested that 10 per cent of teachers and 20 per cent of students could be infected with HIV in the next five years.

HIV/AIDS is already slowing economic growth and activity in the worst-affected countries. In the 1990s, AIDS reduced Africa’s per capita annual growth by about 0.8 per cent.

Models suggest that in the worst-affected countries 1-2 percentage points will be sliced off per capita growth in coming years. This means that after two decades, many economies will be about 20-40 per cent smaller than they would have been without AIDS.

The poor have little access to prevention services, condoms, or any form of treatment. Only about one in five people at risk for HIV have access to prevention information and services. Fewer than 5 per cent of people in need get anti-retroviral drugs. Action against the epidemic has been impeded by the slowness of leadership, at all levels, to recognize and admit the nature of the advancing crisis. The universal culture of silence that surrounds sexual behaviour has kept eyes averted and voices silenced.

Effective strategies to turn back the epidemic involve a combination of treatment, education and prevention. Such strategies must go beyond medicine and health care and reach into the community. Strong and committed leadership is also necessary.

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