As you may already be aware, yesterday (December 1) was World AIDS Day, a day set aside for raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. This is the 21st year of the event and the focus was on improving access to life saving drugs and recognizing this access as a basic human right. (For more, check out the this page from the HHS Web site).
AIDS and hunger are closely intertwined. AIDS is rapidly spreading in the most impoverished areas of the world—places where education, women’s and children’s rights, and peace are hard to come by. Many areas, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, are trapped in a vicious cycle in which the symptoms of poverty facilitate the spread of the disease while the lives and productivity lost to the pandemic further impoverish vulnerable communities. Moreover, AIDS is especially devastating to hungry persons. Malnourished persons cannot take anti-retroviral drugs—an empty stomach cannot handle the powerful medicine. In the absence of drugs and adequate nutrition, HIV develops into AIDS more quickly. Once a person has AIDS, more food is needed to fight the illness and counteract weight loss.
On the flip side, when someone is given the food and drugs that are essential to effectively addressing the disease the results are miraculous. Check out this powerful video from the Gates Foundation on how a young girl’s life was transformed by giving her access to food and drugs (the entire 11 minute video is worth watching, but the compelling image of transformation takes place at the 3 minute mark).