How climate change is undermining the war against HIV in Africa

  • Written by  Inna Lazareva

Teenage girls growing up in Lesotho in areas hit by harsh drought and other climate shocks are more likely to drop out of school, start having sex earlier and contract HIV, researchers say.

In a study looking at the link between climate change and HIV infection since antiretroviral (ARV) treatment drugs became widely available in Sub-Saharan Africa, researchers found that severe drought threatens to drive new HIV infections.

In the urban areas of Lesotho researchers looked at, droughts were linked to an almost five-fold increase in the number of girls selling sex and a three-fold increase in those being forced into sexual relations.

Such findings mean climate shocks — which can bring displacement, loss of income and other problems — threaten to undermine progress made in HIV treatment, said Andrea Low, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the International Centre for AIDS Care and Treatment Programmes at Columbia University. “I think the real concern is that we have gained a lot in terms of epidemic control ... but there is always a possibility of losing all those gains if a lot of people are displaced due to climate extremes [and] forced migration.”

In Lesotho more than half the population lives on less than $1.90 a day according to World Bank, and 55% grow their own food, making them particularly vulnerable to drought

People forced to migrate as a result of drought may no longer have easy access to the support of family and friends or to HIV treatment, Low, the study’s lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from New York.

People who lose the stability of their communities are more likely to engage in high-risk sex, acquire HIV or discontinue treatment for HIV, the study found. Widespread poverty and exposure to worsening droughts, floods and other climate risks make Africa one of the continents most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, UN disaster officials said.

Southern Africa experienced two years of an El Niño–induced regional drought — one of its worst in decades — in 2014–2015. In 2016, this resulted in food shortages and higher prices affecting almost 40-million people in the region, according to the World Food Programme.

In Lesotho more than half the population lives on less than $1.90 a day according to World Bank, and 55% grow their own food, making them particularly vulnerable to drought.

The country of 2.2-million also has the second highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world, behind nearby eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), according to the UN agency for HIV/AIDS.

Keeping girls in school

Low and her colleagues said ways of reducing HIV risk associated with climate shocks include providing easier access to medical care, distributing HIV self-testing kits and offering cash transfers to pay school fees for drought-hit families forced to migrate.

“We really need to think about the population in the long term,” Low said, noting it was vital to keep children in classrooms. “If that’s reduced every time there’s some kind of climate extreme and they have to pull their kids out of school, that is going to have really detrimental effects — not just on HIV but on all aspects of society.”

Lesotho’s neighbour eSwatini is facing some of the same threats, experts there said. Khulekani Magongo, executive director of the charity Young heroes (Swaziland), which works with vulnerable young people affected by HIV and other problems, said young girls are particularly affected.

“In most instances, girls from the rural areas move up to the bigger towns to look for jobs, and when they don’t find those jobs they tend to opt for sex work,” he said.

With more people on the move as a result of climate pressures, “there should be some kind of co-ordination in the region, so that people know they have safe access to prevention and care no matter where they are,” Low said. “That will be crucial as more and more people are forced to move ... due to climate extremes making it harder for them to survive in their communities.”

Login to post comments
back to top

BEAMED BC-TV

Latest on Economy

Economy

Mozambique to host 12th U.S.-Africa Busi…

14 March, 2019 | Hits:121

Johannesburg, South Africa (ADV) – Mozambique is s...

Economy

Aliko Dangote named richest person in Af…

05 March, 2019 | Hits:103

Aliko Dangote, the Nigerian businessman and Presid...

Economy

Expert: Small fragmented African airline…

28 February, 2019 | Hits:367

Like it has been the case in previous years, the g...

Economy

SKA infrastructure design complete

28 February, 2019 | Hits:353

South African Science and Technology Minister Mmam...

Economy

Kenyan and Chinese firms secure geotherm…

28 February, 2019 | Hits:334

Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) has signed a deal w...

Economy

South Africa stimulus package to create …

28 February, 2019 | Hits:347

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has announced a ...

Economy

eSwatini is facing an unprecedented econ…

28 February, 2019 | Hits:399

eSwatini’s economy probably contracted in 2018 and...

Economy

80% of women in low- and middle-income c…

27 February, 2019 | Hits:301

80 per cent of women in low- and middle-income cou...

Economy

South Africa - India trade relations dee…

27 February, 2019 | Hits:304

Two KwaZulu-Natal companies are on a mission to ex...

Economy

Closing Africa’s financing gap

27 February, 2019 | Hits:322

Toward the end of 2018, the United States merged e...

Economy

First China-Africa economic, trade expo …

27 February, 2019 | Hits:308

At least 1,000 African guests and traders will att...

Economy

Ethiopia moves to boost ease of doing bu…

27 February, 2019 | Hits:320

Ethiopia continues to work towards improving ease ...

Economy

US $7bn to be injected into infrastructu…

27 February, 2019 | Hits:311

South Africa is set to commit US $7bn over the nex...

Economy

Mozambique, Soliridad Southern Africa in…

26 February, 2019 | Hits:356

The National Institute for Standardization and Qua...

Economy

Mozambique, Soliridad Southern Africa in…

26 February, 2019 | Hits:355

The National Institute for Standardization and Qua...

Economy

Ethiopian Airlines to operate all-female…

26 February, 2019 | Hits:310

Ethiopian Airlines has announced that it has final...

Economy

Africa: The first African Digital Rail S…

26 February, 2019 | Hits:290

Cape Town, South Africa, 25 February 2019 - "Afric...

Economy

Tech startups in Sub-Saharan Africa to g…

26 February, 2019 | Hits:305

Tech startups from Sub-Saharan Africa markets to g...

Economy

IFC invests $15 million in Comoros telec…

25 February, 2019 | Hits:343

International Finance Corporation has made its fir...

Economy

MafAfrique to invest $7 Million in Tanza…

25 February, 2019 | Hits:298

Advisory and fund management group, MafAfrique, ha...

By Category

Local News

User Menu

About Us

Follow Us