The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Social Safety Nets: What Can the Caribbean Expect?
By the end of 1999 HIV/AIDS was present in at least 200 countries and approximately 34.3 million people were living with the disease, 5.3 million of whom had been infected in that year alone (WHO 2000). Approximately 21.8 million persons had died from AIDS by 2000 and countries where life expectancy would have been about 64 years in 2015 in the absence of HIV/AIDS are now downgraded to a level of 47 years. Pension schemes are exhibiting characteristics of funds that are maturing at accelerated rates and surveys show that absenteeism due to ill-health is exerting an increasing burden on firms, as are HIV/AIDS related medical costs. The flip side of the increase in deaths from HIV/AIDS and withdrawal from the labour market due to advanced stages of the disease, has been the increased pressure on the corresponding funds eg survivor benefits and funeral grants. For instance, HIV/AIDS had left an estimated 13.2 million orphans in its wake by the end of 1999. It is to be expected that many of these orphans are dependants of social security contributors. To compound the situation, estimates for the Caribbean (Camara et al 1997) highlight the magnitude of the potential economic burden of the disease for this region, showing its capacity to erode the economic base and by extension, the need for nations to arm themselves for what may well be the biggest health and development battle that the region has engaged in to date. Information on the extent of the economic losses expected from HIV/AIDS has since been used as one of the critical inputs into the advocacy efforts in the region.
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