1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

HIV/AIDS and Development

  • Project from: 2000 to 2002


This project made a preliminary exploration of patterns of development that provide the underlying context for the appearance and spread of HIV/AIDS, and provided the foundations for further research and debate on ways to ensure effective socioeconomic and political policy responses to the pandemic.

HIV/AIDS is destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world. Efforts to combat the disease have been oriented above all toward finding biomedical and behavioural solutions, which are no doubt of vital importance. Nevertheless concern with deeper socioeconomic and political roots of the pandemic is growing. Clearly the disease strikes hardest where poverty is extensive, gender inequality is pervasive and public services are weak. In fact, the spread of HIV/AIDS at the turn of the twenty-first century is a sign of maldevelopment – an indicator of the failure at both national and international levels to create more equitable and prosperous societies for all.

In 1999, UNAIDS commissioned a study from UNRISD on AIDS in the Context of Development; and a year later, the Board of UNRISD encourated the Institute to undertake further comparative research in this field. From the outset, NGOs and community groups have played a critical role in dealing with the AIDS crisis. In 2001, as a first step toward understanding these local initiatives, UNRISD formed a network of social scientists and activists working closely with grassroots HIV/AIDS organizations. Papers contributed by members of the network are available by clicking Publications and Unpublished Papers, on the right. They provide abundant proof that if the pandemic is to be brought under control, institutions that reinforce social solidarity must be strengthened, and opportunities to enjoy a decent level of living must improve. They also suggest that sustained progress against HIV/AIDS is unlikely in the absence of an efficient public sector, providing essential basic services to all citizens and guaranteeing a legal framework in which their basic human rights can be upheld.

In 2003, UNRISD launched two new initiatives on the development aspects of HIV/AIDS: Community Responses to HIV/AIDS, and Politics and Political Economy of HIV/AIDS. More information on these projects will be found by clicking Related Information, on the right.