CLIMATE CHANGE AND HIV/AIDS
The health challenges arising from climate change and the HIV/AIDS epidemic are
unprecedented in human history. A ground-breaking study in 2020 forebodes that our planet
could see a greater rise in temperatures in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6000 years as
a consequence of human activities. Without swift adoption of powerful mitigation and
adaptation strategies, these temperature changes will drive extreme weather events such as
droughts and floods, alter coastlines, and dramatically affect access to adequate food, clean
water, and reliable shelter over the coming years. According to the World Bank, these effects
are projected to cause an additional 5 million deaths between 2030 and 2050—mainly from
malnutrition, malaria, and diarrheal diseases—and force over 100 million additional people into
extreme poverty. Meanwhile, to date, over 70 million people have been infected with the HIV
virus worldwide, nearly half of whom have died. According to the World Health Organization,
38.0 million people were living with HIV in 2019 and 690,000 deaths were caused by HIV/AIDS.
Consequently, the global burden of HIV/AIDS remains one of the foremost challenges facing
healthcare systems worldwide.
The overlap between climate change and HIV/AIDS is of paramount global public health
importance, particularly since both disproportionately impact regions of global vulnerability
such as sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Southeast Asia (SEA) that are heavily impacted by both
HIV and climate change. In this context, “vulnerability” can be seen as having two components:
the stresses that people are subjected to (external) and their capacity to cope with those
stresses (internal). This logic has already been used to explain the “new variant famine”
hypothesis, whereby communities with a higher HIV prevalence are more heavily impacted by
moderate flooding and droughts due to their relative inability to recover from these events.
Environmental justice has emerged as an important lens for assessing the disproportionate
impact of climate change on vulnerable populations, including PLWHIV. Environmental justice is
a theoretical and activist framework that aims to expose inequities in the distribution of natural
resources among disadvantaged and minority groups. HIV/AIDS can be framed as an
environmental justice issue due to the intimate connection that exists between natural
resource allocation and the transmission and progression of HIV/AIDS. This is particularly true in
the agrarian communities of SSA and SEA that rely heavily on subsistence farming for income
and food security. For example, the World Bank predicts that 1.5°–2 °C of warming will result in
a 40–80% reduction in food production in SSA due to droughts, flooding and shifts in rainfall.
This is especially important since over two thirds of all people living with HIV currently live in
the WHO African Region (25.7 million), with an additional 3.8 million living in SEA.
HIV/AIDS AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV) HIV/AIDS
Several methods and interventions have proved highly effective in reducing the risk of, and
protecting against, HIV infection, including male and female condoms, the use of antiretroviral
medicines as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC),
behaviour change interventions to reduce the number of sexual partners, the use of clean
needles and syringes, opiate substitution therapy.
Involving local stakeholders in problem identification and solving. Ensuring GBV services are
accessible for target groups and in hard-to-reach areas.