As humanitarian actors working in refugee1 situations, we cannot close our eyes to the deadly threat of HIV/AIDS. We must assume greater proactive responsibility for enabling refugees to protect themselves from the spread of HIV infection and to lessen the impact on those infected and affected.
40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. This figure is over 50% higher than projected by the World Health Organization in 1991.
The question is not whether more people will die. More people will die. The question is how many generations will suffer as ours is doing today; and how many generations will be saddled with a spreading virus, catastrophic economic and social losses, and heart-breaking, pervasive loss of life.
(Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General)
In order to be effective in preventing and managing HIV/AIDS, staff working in all sectors and areas, including security, protection, site planning, community services, education and health, must assume responsibility for HIV/AIDS-related activities in their respective programs. If we fail to take up the challenge, many will die, leaving dependents and adding to the burdens of refugees.
• Of those who are infected with HIV, almost 70% are found in sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa, more than 12 million children have already been orphaned by AIDS. This figure is expected to rise to 24 million by 2010.
• More than 20 million people have died of AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic.
• About one-third of those currently living with HIV/AIDS are aged 15-24. Most of them do not know they carry the virus.
• 5 million new HIV infections occurred in 2001.
• An estimated 6.1 million people in South and Southeast Asia were living with HIV in 2001.
• Eastern Europe is experiencing the fastest-growing AIDS epidemic in the world.
UNAIDS, AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2001, UNAIDS and WHO
This document was produced by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children under the auspices of the Inter-agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations to provide user-friendly guidance and mobilize humanitarian actors working in refugee settings to address HIV/AIDS.
The aim of the document is to stimulate policy makers, managers and implementers to strengthen their response to HIV/AIDS. It is not a comprehensive guide to HIV/AIDS programming in refugee settings. Readers are encouraged to utilize the key resource materials, among others, referenced at the end of this document.