HIV lurks after disasters, Red Cross warns

The Swiss-based Red Cross federation has warned that the problem of HIV is often being ignored in disaster relief work, exposing victims to unnecessary risks.

This content was published on June 26, 2008 - 11:00

Relief workers should do more to prevent unsafe blood donations, protect women and children from rape, and minimize the disruption to HIV treatment, according to a 250-page report published on Thursday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Low-cost measures and better planning can go a long way toward minimizing the risk of spreading the Aids-causing virus in a disaster zone, the IFRC said.

"It's a question of adding HIV as a dimension in planning a response to disasters," said the federation's top HIV official, Mukesh Kapila Kapila, comparing it with the efforts relief workers already make to reduce sexual exploitation in the aftermath of major catastrophes.

The United Nations estimates that 33 million people around the world have HIV.

Some 2.1 million people died of Aids in 2007, compared with 23,000 who were killed by natural and man-made disasters such as storms, earthquakes and plane crashes.

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