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HIV and emergencies: One size does not fit all

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Fiona Samuels

Briefing/policy papers

The global HIV epidemic may have stabilised, and the number of new infections has fallen slightly since 2001. But this Briefing Paper finds that there is no room for complacency. In 2007, 33 million people were living with HIV, and two million people died as a result of AIDs-related illnesses. In many regions, high levels of HIV infection coincide with humanitarian emergencies. In 2006, 1.8 million people living with HIV were also affected by conflict, disaster or displacement – 5.4% of all HIV positive people.

HIV and AIDS pose multi-sectoral challenges in good times – challenges that can undermine progress on poverty reduction and economic growth. These are exacerbated by humanitarian crises that may increase in severity in the face of climate change and economic crisis. It could be that the challenges of HIV will, increasingly, be located in fragile states or areas.

An increased understanding of what kinds of HIV prevention, treatment and care and support programmes and policies work in different emergency contexts is vital. If HIV-related vulnerabilities are not considered in emergencies, commitments made to ensure Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010 are unlikely to be reached.

Drawing on research from five countries facing different kinds of emergencies, the Briefing Paper finds that one size does not fit all, nor do the same priorities and needs occur in the same way in all emergencies.

Fiona Samuels