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Social Policy and Development Programme Paper 4: AIDS in the Context of Development

6 Apr 2001

  • Authors: Joseph Collins, Bill Rau


Today, the spread of HIV/AIDS reflects the failure to create more equitable and prosperous societies in large parts of the world. The growing pandemic is, hence, directly linked to poverty, finds a new study commissioned by UNRISD, in collaboration with UNAIDS.

The 63-page study considers HIV/AIDS in the context of widespread and worsening poverty, gender inequality and weak public services. The spread of HIV/AIDS is aggravated by the fact that (for economic reasons) people have to migrate in search of work, and are forced into commercial sex work, for instance. Both situations place men and women in particularly high-risk situations. And both would be largely obviated if opportunities for making a decent living were available at home.

The study also shows that if the HIV/AIDS epidemic is to be controlled, networks of social solidarity and broad-based political action must be strengthened. Hence, top-down, technocratic responses are not likely to be effective in dealing with the pandemic.

The study has suggestions for further social science research on HIV/AIDS and development at all levels: global, national, local. This includes documenting and analysing global processes that drive the pandemic, so that HIV/AIDS can be integrated into international debates on major development issues. At national and local levels, new social science research is urgently needed on the progress of the pandemic: it is important to know who is affected, why and how; and to devise ways to lessen the vulnerability of particular groups.

The study finds that new analysis of concrete attempts by community groups and NGOs to deal with the epidemic is essential. By working closely with these groups, researchers can help them analyse the problems they face. At the same time, research can play an important role in building broader networks for the exchange of experiences and, ultimately, for facilitating the comparative analysis of responses to HIV/AIDS in different social contexts.

Joseph Collins has researched and written about world hunger and other issues in inequitable development. He is the co-founder of the Institute for Food and Development Policy. Bill Rau has worked on development issues for over 30 years and on policy and socioeconomic themes relating to HIV/AIDS for eight years. Currently, he works as an independent consultant on HIV/AIDS and policy process issues.

Order PP SPD 4 from UNRISD ($5 for readers in the North; $2.50 for readers in the South).