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AIDS: UN agencies join forces to combat pandemic in rural areas

AIDS: UN agencies join forces to combat pandemic in rural areas

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) today formally agreed to join forces in combating the pandemic in rural areas.

Signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Geneva, the agencies set out joint plans to mitigate the devastating impact of AIDS on rural communities, where the disease not only ravages health but also economies and personal finances. For example, UNAIDS estimates that since 1985, AIDS has killed some 7 million agricultural workers in the 25 worst-hit African countries.

"The MOU will provide a clear framework for the complementary roles which can be played by IFAD and UNAIDS," said Lennart Båge, the President of IFAD. "Our goals in working together are to alleviate the impact of HIV and AIDS on rural poverty and insecure livelihoods, and to reduce vulnerability to AIDS through sustainable rural development."

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot pointed out that the cooperation comes at a time of increasing levels of infection in the countryside. "As links between urban and rural areas increase, trade and migration are rapidly pushing HIV prevalence rates upwards in rural areas," he said. "The impact of HIV is felt in reduced agricultural production as well as increasing the fragility of affected households."

Areas earmarked for joint efforts under the cooperation agreement include IFAD field projects, information exchanges on AIDS-related IFAD projects, and technical assistance by UNAIDS to IFAD.