ACDI/VOCA Works to Mitigate the Effects of HIV on Economic Growth and Food Security

Poverty and the effects of HIV and AIDS follow a devastating cyclical relationship: as poverty increases so does the risk of infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

HIV infection leads to increased medical costs and decreased household labor availability, which limits already vulnerable households' abilities to cope with the disease, leading to more deeply entrenched poverty. The economic and social impacts of HIV and AIDS can negate, and even undo, hard-won development gains, hindering economic growth and destroying families and communities.

HIV Hinders Economic Growth

A healthy workforce is essential to building and maintaining competitiveness in today's global marketplace. HIV and its resulting opportunistic infections predominantly affect adults between the ages of 25 and 50, in the prime of their productive years.1

In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa as many as one in every four adults has HIV or AIDS.2 This results in frequent employee absences because of personal illness or the obligation to care for sick family members. It also means an overall reduced investment in productive assets because cash income is diverted to other expenses such as health care and burials.

HIV Weakens Food Security

The decrease in worker productivity caused by the effects of HIV and AIDS often leads to increased food insecurity, especially in rural communities. In Africa alone, more than 7 million farmers have died from AIDS-related illnesses since 1985.3

Decreased agricultural production caused by HIV- and AIDS-related illness and death results in lost income and less production of food for the household's own consumption. This provokes a downward spiral: people living with HIV (PLHIV) have stricter dietary needs than healthy people and are unable to survive on the meager diet common to poor rural families.

Not only do affected communities suffer from lost agricultural labor, but they may also lose the next generation of farmers. This can occur as children are affected by the disease or lose access to health care and nutritious foods as income is diverted to meet the needs of the family's sickest members. Those children who do continue to work in agriculture have lost their mentors, and with them, the farming techniques and knowledge needed to grow food.

ACDI/VOCA's Strategies for Increasing Economic Growth and Food Security

Development initiatives directed toward economic growth and food security must find ways to overcome the pervasive and devastating effects of HIV and AIDS on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable. With a long-held commitment to our beneficiaries as a core corporate value, ACDI/VOCA is proactive in the fight against HIV.

At the heart of our comprehensive approach to HIV mitigation and economic growth, we

  • apply a value chain approach to yield more comprehensive and sustainable results in stimulating economic development and reducing poverty

Using a Smart Value Chain Approach to Minimize HIV Risk

ACDI/VOCA promotes the use of value chain analysis as a tool for identifying, prioritizing, and addressing opportunities and constraints to better industry performance in responding to market demands. Participatory value chain tools can be used to mobilize industry stakeholders to address health-related constraints and create solutions while making their industries more competitive.

ACDI/VOCA also understands that with value chain strengthening and increased market access come increased risk of HIV transmission. Many value chain-oriented activities will increase travel between rural and urban areas for trade and seasonal employment. This can separate families and increase opportunities for casual sex and other risky behaviors, which increase the risk of HIV transmission.

In program areas with an elevated prevalence of HIV, ACDI/VOCA's holistic approach to value chain development minimizes the risk of HIV transmission. Examples include:

  • decentralizing trainings and input supply and market chains to minimize travel and family separation
  • incorporating HIV-prevention messaging into farmer trainings
  • increasing access to HIV-related messaging at agricultural training centers and market venues
  • increasing messaging campaigns during high-risk times such as holidays and harvest periods

Gender-Inclusive Approaches to Combat Root Causes of HIV

As of 2009, an overwhelming 76 percent of HIV‐positive youth ages 15‐24 in sub‐Saharan Africa were female, and over one-third of teenage girls are HIV‐infected in some African countries.4 Women also make up the majority of primary caregivers for PLHIV.

ACDI/VOCA's commitment to gender equity ensures that program activities consider the unique needs and risks facing both women and men. We work toward women's participation in economic growth and food security initiatives that both empower them and alleviate poverty. Through this work, we aim to address the root causes of HIV infection in women and adolescent girls.

Through all of our work, we aim to improve the well-being of women and men, girls and boys, families, and entire communities and equip them with the knowledge, opportunities, and choices they need to succeed in the global economy