HIV and Food Sovereignty

"HIV damages the body's ability to effectively absorb nutrients needed by the body, hunger weakens the immune system and increases vulnerability to infection, expedites progression to AIDS from HIV and affects adherence to ARV treatment"

HIV and Hunger

HIV increases hunger because....

  • HIV damages the body's ability to absorb nutrition
  • Symptomatic HIV/AIDS may limit a person's capacity to work
  • Medical costs deplete resources
  • Carers, usually women, often abandon or delay farming and other livelihoods to care or to engage in wage labour to cover medical expenses
  • Households may shift from multi-cropping systems to less labour intensive farming

Hunger increases risk of HIV because...

  • Hunger and malnutrition weaken the immune system and increase vulnerability to infection
  • Adequate nutrition can mitigate and slow the progression of HIV
  • Adequate nutrition is needed to get the full benefits of ARVs and avoid some of the side effects
  •  Hunger can drive high risk behavior, including transactional sex
  • Hunger can drive mobility and migration leading to families spending time apart

Food sovereignty is an approach to the political, social and economic questions of how to achieve food security emphasizing

  • The right to sufficient, healthy and culturally appropriate food
  •  Balance between food for people and food for trade
  • Local and democratic shaping of agriculture and food security policies
  • Environmental sustainability 

The connections between HIV and hunger and food sovereignty require a mainstreaming approach that ensures that development programs integrate food issues into the HIV response and vice versa HIV issues are integrated in food security policies and programmes.


In Rwanda the phenomenon of child headed households is being fuelled by the HIV/AIDS epidemic - siblings often eat only one meal a day

ACORD's Work on HIV and Food Sovereignty

ACORD tackles the interconnections between HIV and food sovereignty in Sub Saharan Africa with a view to addressing the negative impact the epidemic has on agricultural communities and families. ACORD's experience in mainstreaming HIV and AIDS in development programming has demonstrated that the AIDS impact on small scale agriculture producers in SSA can be effectively tackled by:

  •  Research to explore and establish the status and extent of vulnerability to HIV and AIDS in food insecure settings and the links between HIV and food sovereignty 
  • Empowering small scale farmers and PLHIV to identify and address the underlying factors fuelling the epidemic 
  • Awareness raising and capacity building of PLHIV and farmers networks on the links between HIV and food sovereignty and to advocate for their food nutrition and treatment rights.
  • Advocacy towards African government to fulfil both Maputo promises on funds  
-15% of national budgets for healthcare
- 10% invested in agriculture
-and advocacy for national policies and programs that include special needs of at risk hard to reach populations particularly pastoralists, women and children heading households and ethnic monitories
  • Multi-sectoral approaches

ACORD's work on HIV and food sovereignty contributes to the organisations right to health strategy that contributes to building a healthy, well informed citizenry that is able to advocate for their right to access to health entitlements irrespective of age, gender, sexual orientation, economic and social status and religious affiliation.

Photos, Videos and Publications

Attaining to vulnerability to HIV and AIDS in food insecure settings in Sub-Saharan Africa. A synthesis report of Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi and Mozambique. English