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Study Finds Droughts Caused by Climate Change Can Have an Impact on HIV Treatment

According to a new study headed by scientists at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), Africa Health Research Institute, (AHRI) and the University of Sussex School of Global Studies, droughts caused due to climate change can have an effect on HIV treatment.

Study Finds Droughts Caused by Climate Change Can Have an Impact on HIV Treatment.
Dr. Collins Iwuji is a Senior Lecturer in Sexual Health & HIV Medicine at BSMS and lead author of the study. Image Credit: University of Sussex.

The study is a systematic review of over 100 studies in Africa, and it utilized a system method to illustrate that livelihood and economic conditions, comorbidities, human mobility and psychobehavioral dispositions and support systems could interact in complicated approaches that could impact HIV treatment adherence at the time of droughts.

Drought is a major consequence of anthropogenic climate change, with impacts on human health. Droughts have affected most people living in the Horn, Sahel, and southern regions of Africa with increasing frequency and duration and impact on health, exacerbated by these regions’ low adaptive capacity.

Dr. Collins Iwuji, Study Senior Author and Senior Lecturer, Sexual Health & HIV Medicine, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Faculty in Population Science, Africa Health Research Institute

Iwuji added, “Indeed, social vulnerabilities, especially high HIV prevalence, unemployment levels and gender inequality further complicate the ways in which drought, and other climate and weather conditions, affect populations in this region. Economic and livelihood-related challenges resulting from drought-induced food and water insecurity appear to impose the biggest threat to HIV treatment adherence.”

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report helping the negotiations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change identified that climate change impacts human health both in a direct and indirect manner.

An estimated 13 million deaths have been noted by the report — almost 23% of all global deaths — are connected to alterable environmental factors, thereby relating to climate change.

While there is a good understanding of the direct health impacts of climate change, such as physiological effects of exposure to greater temperatures and increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases, like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, indirect effects on health, especially those leading to long causal pathways, like through impacts on livelihoods, are harder to be found.

This study emphasized the importance of understanding the social dimensions of climate change in general, and droughts in particular, in order to empower researchers, governments and other stakeholders to engage with how this phenomenon impacts people living with HIV and their adherence to treatment in a holistic manner.

Dr. Kingsley Orievulu, Study Co-Author and Research Associate, Africa Health Research Institute

The authors of the study summarized that interventions to enhance the health and wellness of people living with HIV must not just focus mainly on HIV but should adopt an entire method to enhance public health in general, like guaranteeing food and water security.

Journal Reference:

Orievulu, K. S., et al. (2022) Exploring linkages between drought and HIV treatment adherence in Africa: a systematic review. The Lancet Planetary Health.


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