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HIV/AIDS and humanitarian action


Hero image description: Malnurished people in Ethiopia approaching a health center Image credit:© Siegfried Modola/IRIN Image license:ODI given rights

This research project explored the role of humanitarian relief in the context of the AIDS epidemic.

What are the implications of HIV/AIDS for our understanding of crisis and humanitarian aid? HIV/AIDS is both a long-term crisis in its own right, and a contributory factor in acute emergencies. The epidemic presents key challenges for both humanitarian and development assistance, and for the interface between them.

The crisis in southern Africa during 2002 and 2003 highlighted the complex connections between HIV/AIDS, food security and famine. The disease is clearly a massive crisis in its own right: to the extent that humanitarian response is concerned with increased levels of mortality and morbidity, HIV/AIDS can clearly be described as an emergency. At the same time, HIV/AIDS is only one of many factors contributing to food insecurity. It is important to understand how the impact of HIV/AIDS relates to other factors, such as drought and conflict, to create acute humanitarian crises.

HIV/AIDS has profound humanitarian consequences, both by directly causing illness and death and in terms of the wider impact it is having on societies. These consequences will develop over decades, meaning that existing models of humanitarian aid may not be appropriate. Equally, existing models of development assistance are likely to prove inadequate. The challenges raised by the pandemic are only beginning to be fully appreciated.