According to a 2008 report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 33.4 million people worldwide live with HIV and new infections now number 2.7 million annually. It is estimated that 2 million deaths occurred due to AIDS-related illnesses worldwide. Hundreds of millions more are affected through loss of parents, children, or colleagues.
Though a global pandemic, sub-Saharan Africa is most severely affected with 22.4 million HIV-positive people. South Asia and South-East Asia follow with 3.7 million infected. Poverty, including insufficient access to water supply and sanitation services, exacerbates the spread of HIV/AIDS; the highest burden of disease is found in regions with widespread poverty.
Diseases related to poverty, such as diarrhoeal and skin diseases, are the most common for people suffering from HIV/AIDS. Moreover, access to improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services is also important for health and livelihoods in general, helping to prevent exposure to infection. These are clear reasons to facilitate the collaboration between the WASH and HIV/AIDS sectors.
Other cross-cutting issues include water quantity and quality and the training of family members, especially of caregivers, to support safe handling of water and maintaining hygienic conditions for those infected. This training is part of strengthening community linkages, which must aim to assure longer-term operation and maintenance of water and sanitation systems while considering the lack of infrastructure (e.g. lack of money and labour for service provision).
WSSCC has produced a thematic Reference Note on HIV/AIDS and WASH to assist professionals in different fields in understanding the key issues, and identifying key resources and institutions on the topic. The Note also identifies implications for practitioners in both fields and presents brief case studies with suggestions for further reading.