I'm back from the sunny shores of Lake Superior, a place brimming with walleyes and Dairy Queens and sweet corn, and now feel horribly guilty for my vacation gluttony upon reading that the rise of global food prices coinciding with an East African drought have driven women into prostitution, and with that exchange of sex for food comes a swath of new AIDS infections. According to Reuters, 50 million more people went hungry in 2007 compared to 2006. Stuart Gillespie of the International Food Policy Research Institute spoke yesterday at a major AIDS conference in Mexico: "Recent studies in Botswana, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania have shown associations between acute food insecurity and unprotected transactional sex among poor women." Even if newly infected women are getting AIDS medication, the scarcity of food in several regions including the South Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa make it difficult for the medicine to be effective.
Reuters reports that "HIV drugs can upset the stomach if taken without food and AIDS patients, many also infected with tuberculosis, need more nutrients and calories."
What makes the crisis even worse is the stigma still placed on AIDS in many countries. "In Zimbabwe, some villages will reject food aid if they think it is destined for AIDS patients, claiming it is contaminated," Reuters says.
Sigh. Good to be back, people!