The new plague: HIV/AIDS, development and child welfare

An estimated 22.5 million people now live with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Life expectancy in many countries is expected to fall to levels last seen in 1960 and even earlier as a result of the disease, while health and educational services are collapsing under the strain. There is already evidence of its negative economic impact, with agricultural production falling, HIV/AIDS-related poverty increasing in both urban and rural areas, and falling school enrolment. An increasing number of AIDS-orphans are growing up in poor conditions, lacking proper nutrition, adequate schooling and the chance to play and socialize. With young people accounting for a disproportionate share of AIDS deaths, scarce human capital is being wiped out, posing a real threat to economic growth in the region. Whatever the prospects for prevention and treatment, HIV/AIDS is likely to impose a long-term development burden on the countries affected, particularly if appropriate contingency measures are not introduced immediately. The Centre has started to make an inventory of the available data on the mechanisms through which HIV/AIDS is affecting the long-term economic and welfare outlook of the continent and is developing a framework showing the mechanisms through which HIV/AIDS spreads and – particularly – the long-term impact of the disease. The project will also draw together examples of ‘best policy responses’ in this area. Specific country-based analyses will be initiated in cooperation with selected UNICEF Country Offices. An inventory of the work already carried out by other organizations will feed into an initial assessment of the knowledge gaps in this area, stressing the need for early economic and social responses to ease the toll of HIV/AIDS on men, women and children.

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