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Access to Water Supply and Sanitation Improves Quality of Life for People living with HIV/AIDS

Although HIV/AIDS is not a water-related disease, the issues are closely linked.  Many of the opportunistic infections that kill people living with HIV/AIDS are transmitted through contaminated water and unsanitary living conditions.  Once people are sick, they frequently suffer from diarrhea and require access to safe, sanitary latrines and large quantities of water for keeping themselves and their surroundings clean.  Improved water supply and sanitation can reduce the frequency of diarrhea.  The incidence of malaria can also be reduced when mosquito breeding areas caused by insufficient drainage are eliminated.

There is a lack of research on the role the water sector plays for people living with HIV/AIDS.  Thus far, the disease has been treated as an epidemic and not considered a chronic disease or socio-economic problem. The emphasis, therefore is heavily placed on treatment and prevention. Neither international organizations nor country governments have looked closely at the implications and potential contributions of the water sector in combating the disease and a remarkably small amount of academic research has been done on the subject.

A nearby and reliable supply of water, including for small-scale production and sanitary latrines, allows those infected by HIV/AIDS to continue productive activities and reduces the workload for caregivers. Due to lack of access to safe water for preparing infant formula, many HIV positive women breastfeed even though this exposes their babies to HIV.  If a reliable source of safe water and infant formula can be provided until the baby starts to eat solid foods at six months of age, the generational spread of the virus can be reduced.    

WSP is a leading organization in establishing the link between water supply and sanitation and HIV/AIDS.  WSP-Africa recently engaged with partners to discuss  the strategic role of water in the alleviation of HIV/AIDS and Poverty.  At the Pretoria, South Africa Think Tank Meeting on 26-29 November, Senior Specialist Barbara Mwila Kazimbaya-Senkwe asked, "How can the Water Sector Improve Service Delivery to people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa's Low Income Peri-Urban Areas?".    The proposed study that emerged from this conference will focus on the changing demands for water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) services brought about by the effects of HIV/AIDS on households and communities.

“It is necessary for the global HIV/AIDS community to work with the global water community to develop a consensus list of prioritized research needed on water and sanitation and HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Kate Tulenko, a public health specialist of the Water and Sanitation Program. “With combined efforts of the AIDS and water communities, WaSH services can be offered to people living with HIV/AIDS to improve their health, relieve the care giving burden, preserve human dignity, and fulfill the call for every sector to participate in the fight against HIV/AIDS”. 

Contact Name: 
Kate Tulenko
Contact Email: 
wsp@worldbank.org