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Prioritising HIV in disasters

Aug 21, 2008

Disasters whether natural or man-made disrupt basic services and increase vulnerability of people living with HIV. World Disasters Report 2008 published by The International Federation of Red Cross calls for giving HIV/AIDS a much higher priority in disaster management programmes, whether in preparedness and risk reduction.

World Disasters Report 2008

Publisher: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2008

The AIDS epidemic is a disaster on many levels. Disasters, man-made and ‘natural’, disrupt basic services, exacerbate other drivers of the epidemic, and can increase people’s vulnerability to HIV infection.

People living with HIV are among the groups most vulnerable in disaster and crisis situations. But, at the same time, they have much to offer and their fuller participation is crucial to tackling the epidemic.

Yet they often face stigma, criminalisation and little, if any, access to HIV prevention and treatment services.

As this report explains, HIV is a challenge to the humanitarian world whose task is to improve the lives of vulnerable people and to support them in strengthening their capacities and resilience.

The report not only analyses the enormous economic, social and intellectual toll of HIV and AIDS but also details the vast challenges the epidemic presents to governments, humanitarian organisations and local communities.

HIV must be integrated as a cross-cutting issue in all forms of humanitarian assistance, including health care, nutrition, social programmes and security, whether in emergency operations, or in long-term developmental programmes.

The Report dispels myths about those ‘other’ people who spread HIV – refugees, migrants, people escaping from conflict and poverty.

Fighting bureaucracy, simplifying procedures, improving coordination, confronting gender inequalities, and involving local communities including, especially, people living with HIV - are among the solutions offered by the report, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of HIV programmes.

Better preparedness for emergencies, reducing risk, and further research into HIV’s impact on people living in disaster zones are also examined.

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