This World AIDS Day (1 December) we are observing unprecedented results in the prevention and treatment of HIV. Access to adequate and nutritious food for a person living with HIV to respond well to antiretroviral treatment (ART) is essential.
As one of the eleven co-sponsors of UNAIDS, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has played a major role in providing food and nutrition support to affected populations, lending to the welcome slow-down in the HIV epidemic that has claimed far too many lives over the past few years.
According to the UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report, 25 low- and middle-income countries, more than half of these in Africa, have seen a 50 percent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections since 2001. At the same time, the global community's efforts have brought hope to the next generation, with new infections in children dropping by over 40 percent over the last decade.
This has been coupled with a 60 percent increase in the number of people accessing lifesaving treatment in the last two years - with eight million people now on ART. Yet these past successes are tempered by the responsibility for the future. Nearly seven million people who are eligible for treatment still do not have access to it.
Good nutrition is vital for the health and survival of all people, but it is particularly important for people with HIV and AIDS. Food assistance not only increases the effectiveness of ART but also helps ensure greater adherence to treatment regimens, as people living with HIV are no longer forced to choose between treatment or food.
In the poorest communities, WFP's food and nutrition support to people living with HIV and their families, including pregnant women and new mothers, helps improve access to treatment and increase treatment success - which means saving more lives and seeing fewer infections.
This is why I am so proud of the work that WFP is doing in this area. From the innovative electronic voucher programme in Zimbabwe, bringing relief to many living with HIV, to livelihood assistance programmes in Ethiopia, which act as social safety nets for people affected by HIV, WFP and partners are contributing to the UNAIDS vision of creating a world with zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
As we work toward a hunger-free and HIV-free world, we must enable the poor and hungry to seek life-saving treatment. We have turned a corner on the HIV epidemic, but we have a long way to go. We encourage the global community to build on the positive momentum by expanding the role of food and nutrition in the HIV response.
From WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin
Elisabeth Byrs, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 229 178564, Mob. +41 794 734570
Jane Howard, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 2321, Mob. +39 346 7600521
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel. +44 20 72409001, Mob. +44 7968 008474
Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1 646 5566909, Mob. +1 646 8241112
Rene McGuffin, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1 202 6530010 ext. 1149, Mob. +1 202 4223383