Academic journal article African Studies Review

Implications of HIV/AIDS for Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania: The Example of Rungwe District

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Implications of HIV/AIDS for Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania: The Example of Rungwe District

Article excerpt


HIV/AIDS is disrupting household livelihood security in Tanzania's rural communities and contributing to rural impoverishment by claiming the lives of the most productive young adults who make up the bulk of the labor force in those areas. This article presents results of a case study based on a survey of 119 households conducted in three villages of Rungwe district in Tanzania. The results reveal that households with HIV/AIDS deaths spend less on food than those without AIDS deaths, and that households with HIV and AIDS-related deaths are more likely to fall below the poverty line.


HIV/AIDS is undeniably one of the most devastating diseases the world has ever known, and the toll is worsening, particularly in southern Africa where remedial measures have yet to contain the rapid spread of the disease. The scale of the epidemic is so huge that it is undoing the socioeconomic gains African countries made after years of stringent economic reforms. In fact, HIV/AIDS is now the number one overall cause of death in Africa, accounting for more than 6 percent of the disease burden in some cities, and it is the fourth greatest cause of death worldwide (Barnett et al. 2000; World Bank 2000). The epidemic is stretching the capacity of social safety nets to the limit. It strikes the most economically productive members of society-the young adults, especially women, who account for more than 70 percent of the agricultural labor force and contribute more than 80 percent of food production (Lamptey et al. 2002; World Bank 2000; FAO 2001; Bollinger etal. 1999).

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has caused an increase in the number of orphan-headed households and puts pressure on grandparents and other family members (ESRF 2002; World Bank 2000). The increasing number of households headed by children, women, and the elderly is creating a new social system with inherent problems that societies have yet to address. There is also an increase in the number of marginalized people living with HIV/AIDS who have no place to turn for support (ESRF 2002; Cogneau & Grimm 2002; FAO 1997).

Until recently, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was a predominandy urban problem, but now it is also affecting rural areas as the epidemic has spread due to migration, trade, and other rural-urban linkages (White & Robinson 2000; Topouzis & du Guerny 1999; FAO 1997). A survey conducted in Tamil Nadu in India in 1999 found that 2.1 percent of the adult population in rural areas had HIV as opposed to 0.7 percent in urban areas. A similar situation can be found in some southern African countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, for example, there is little difference in HIV prevalence rates between rural and urban areas among pregnant women (about 50%) who attended prenatal clinics in 1999 (Topouzis & du Guerny 1999). The high rural infection rate is also evident in rural Tanzania, where it ranges from 5 percent to 30 percent (National AIDS Control Program 2000; World Bank 2000). The growing rate of HIV/ AIDS in rural areas of Tanzania poses serious impediments to the economic development of the country. The large majority of Tanzanians (more than 80 percent of the population) live in rural areas and make up the labor force in the agricultural industry, which contributes more than 50 percent to GDP and over 60 percent of exports. Inevitably, as the backbone of the nations' economy is weakened, the adverse socioeconomic impact of the spread of HIV/AIDS will not only affect rural areas, but also the nation as a whole.

The misconception of HIV/AIDS as an urban problem has resulted in few efforts to contain its spread in rural areas (Topouzis 8c du Guerny 1999). Only limited studies have been conducted to reveal the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS problem in these rural areas, and available studies suffer from a number of limitations. First, very thin baseline information is available on the implications of HIV/AIDS for rural livelihoods. …

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