The AIDS epidemic in Africa is so dire it should be classified as a disaster, according to the annual “World Disasters Report.”
The report, issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, concluded that there was “no doubt” the epidemic matched the United Nations' definition of a disaster.
The UN defines a disaster as “serious disruption of the functioning society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of a society to cope using only its own resources.”
Currently, an estimated 33 million people around the world are living with HIV. Of those infected, about two-thirds of the cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.
"HIV is a long-term and complex disaster on many levels,” said the Geneva-based humanitarian agency, in the report. “For marginalized groups across the world — injecting drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men — rates are on the increase.”
The report said these groups are among the “most vulnerable.”
“They face extensive and potentially debilitating economic, political, legal and/or social barriers, many of which are related to stigma and discrimination,” the report said.
As a result, their ability to obtain proper healthcare usually ranges from insufficient to impossible, the report concluded.
The federation also called on governments and humanitarian agencies to make sure they take AIDS into greater consideration when responding to natural disasters around the globe.