Approaching HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa through the Lens of Forestry: Reducing Vulnerability and Susceptibility in Forest-Dependent Communities

The majority of people in Sub-Saharan Africa rely on forest products for subsistence and to supplement their cash incomes. Sub-Saharan Africa also has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. Yet academic scholarship on the linkages and interactions between the use of forest resources and contemporary epidemics in general, and on the environmental dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic specifically, remains surprisingly slim. In this region, HIV/AIDS is not only a health issue, but also a development problem with complex links to rural livelihoods, human capacity, and forest conservation. HIV/AIDS is known to have negative impacts on the environment as HIV/AIDS-affected households with limited livelihood options increase their reliance on freely available forest resources (such as timber for coffins; medicinal plants; bushmeat) in order to buffer the shock of the disease. There is a dearth of research on the contribution of forest products to the livelihoods of HIV/AIDS affected households, the long-term impacts of people living with HIV/AIDS on the management of forest resources, and the most appropriate interventions for the effective management of natural resources in the face of the epidemic. At the same time, there has been speculation that loggers spread HIV in remote communities, and there is a need to clarify the role that forestry workers with large-scale forest concessions play in the spread of HIV/AIDS in vulnerable rural communities. AFRICAD conducts research to address these gaps in knowledge.

Joleen Timko (AFRICAD) →