Alleviating the Double Burden

By Bruce-Lockhart, Kate | Women & Environments International Magazine, Fall/Winter 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Alleviating the Double Burden

Bruce-Lockhart, Kate, Women & Environments International Magazine

Women, Malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa

In 2003, Stephen Lewis, then the UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, traveled to the southern region of the continent to study the intersection of HIV/AIDS and food insecurity. His team was "stunned" by their findings: not only was HIV/AIDS closely linked with malnutrition, it was also deeply intertwined with the status of women. The quote on the right, a reflection on that trip, captures the devastating reality of the interplay between gender inequality, food insecurity, and HIV/AIDS. For Lewis, addressing the convergence of these factors became one of the most urgent priorities in the fight against the epidemic: "the toll on women and girls is beyond imagining; it presents Africa and the world with a practical and moral challenge which places gender at the center of the human condition..." (Lewis, 2006)

Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and malnutrition. To alleviate this double burden and address the pervasive gender inequality mat is so central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, women must be at the crux of nutritional solutions to HTV/AIDS in SubSaharan Africa.

Malnutrition and HIV/AIDS: A Vicious Cycle

The synergistic relationship between HIV/ AIDS and malnutrition has deadly consequences for many people living with AIDS at both the individual and household levels, as it intensifies malnutrition and food insecurity. As Stephen Lewis articulated, at a basic level "AIDS leads to hunger; hunger exacerbates AIDS." (Lewis, 2006)

The intersection between HIV/ AIDS and malnutrition has an adverse effect on health, operating in a vicious cyclical relationship. Malnutrition exacerbates HIV/AIDS through hastening the onset of opportunistic infections and reducing the effectiveness of anti-retroviral drugs. HIV/AIDS has a similarly negative impact on nutritional status. It increases energy requirements by 10% for asymptomatic individuals, and by 23% for symptomatic. (Colecraft, 2008) In SubSaharan Africa, where access to food is often limited, there can be devastating consequences for the nutritional status of people living with HIV/ AIDS. The complications are numerous, including loss of appetite, gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients. Not surprisingly, AIDS patients often display key indicators of malnutrition, such as micronutrient deficiencies and wasting.

Food Security

In a household affected by HrV/AIDS, food insecurity often becomes a reality. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where over 70% of the population are farmers, the losses of human capital in the form of labour are at the heart of the HTV/AIDS-food insecurity connection. (Gillespie and Haddad, 2002) This reduction in the household labour capabilities severely decreases agricultural output. The source of nourishment and income for the bulk of Sub-Saharan Africa's population, agricultural output, is further hurt by a loss in the transfer of intergenerational knowledge, as the productive adult population with experience in agricultural labour is the most severely affected by AIDS.

Losses in agricultural output lead to a decline in household income and food, resulting in the sale of productive assets such as livestock and farming inputs. The decline in income is further exacerbated by high medical and funeral costs associated with AIDS.

The potential consequences of these interrelated developments are worrisome for the future of food security in SubSaharan Africa because the agricultural labour force will likely be dramatically reduced. As a result, nutritional strategies must be at the heart of any attempts to mitigate the epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Women, HIV/AIDS and Malnutrition: Problems and Progress

Women in Sub-Saharan Africa are disproportionately impacted by malnutrition and HIV/AIDS - a double burden rooted in biology, socioeconomic realities, and the pervasive gender inequality.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Alleviating the Double Burden


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?