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HIV infections reduce household incomes by as much as 10 percent, with the impact being especially severe on those engaged in agricultural labour. This is on account of job losses or leave of absence for people living with HIV/AIDS and their care-givers.

These are the findings of a study on the Socio-Economic Impact of HIV/AIDS on Households, conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), presented by its Director-General Suman Bery, at the CII session on Dealing with HIV/AIDS:

The Challenge Ahead of Business, organized by the Indian Business Trust for HIV/AIDS and the CII here today.

Of the two-thirds of households surveyed, and 77 percent of those in agriculture labour, suffered this loss of income. In addition, unemployment among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) increased to 9.8 percent from 3.6 between the time they were tested and surveyed. HIV/AIDS also increases the work load on the elderly and girl children, said Dr. Bery. HIV households spend 400 percent more than non-HIV households on medical expenses and have a lower per-capita outlay on education

On June 2006, the United Nations General Assembly called for ‘all people at all times to have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food – as part of a comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS’. This political declaration represents a significant shift in the global community’s approach to combating the pandemic. The evidence and mandate are clear. The world needs to act, soon.

        Stuart Gillespie, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in a paper presented at the 16th International AIDS Conference, held on August at Toronto, Canada said that increasingly, people recognise that HIV/AIDS and hunger are entwined in a vicious cycle. Malnutrition and lack of food may heighten exposure to HIV and susceptibility to infection, while AIDS in turn exacerbates hunger.

        According to him, these links are particularly acute in rural communities, where households are often dependent on agriculture for both income and food. For that reason, improving rural livelihoods and agricultural production can help reduce both the spread of HIV and the effects of AIDS. Programs that reduce the need for poor people to migrate to look for work (e.g., by restoring degraded land) can reduce their risk of being exposed to the virus.

As evidence of the interactions between AIDS and hunger has accumulated, both agriculture and nutrition specialists have begun to take AIDS into account. In turn, AIDS experts have become increasingly aware of the critical importance of nutrition. Gillespie added that it is clear that development experts from different sectors must work together if we are to win the fight against HIV and AIDS.

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