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Health Policy Plan. 2011 Jan;26(1):43-52. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czq017. Epub 2010 May 3.

Volunteer home-based HIV/AIDS care and food crisis in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: sustainability in the face of chronic food insecurity.

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Department of Anthropology, Emory University, 1557 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Low-income volunteers constitute a major part of AIDS care workforces in sub-Saharan Africa, yet little research has been conducted to determine how poverty and insecurity among volunteers impact their wellbeing and the sustainability of the AIDS treatment programmes they support. This paper presents longitudinal ethnographic and epidemiological research documenting how the 2008 food crisis in Addis Ababa affected AIDS care volunteers' care relationships and motivations. Ethnographic results highlight the distress and demotivation that rising food costs created for caregivers by contributing to their own and their care recipients' experiences of food insecurity and HIV-related stigmatization. Epidemiological results underscore a high prevalence of food insecurity (approximately 80%) even prior to the peak of food prices. Rising food prices over the 3 years prior to 2008, underemployment and household per capita incomes averaging less than US$1/day, likely contributed to the very high prevalence of food insecurity reported by caregivers in our sample. We also show that new volunteers recruited in early 2008 by one of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in this study were more likely to be dependants within their households, and that these participants reported lower rates of food insecurity and higher household income. While this shift in volunteer recruitment may help sustain volunteer care programmes in the face of widespread poverty and underemployment, food insecurity was still highly prevalent (58-71%) among this sub-group. Given the inability of the local NGOs that organize volunteers to address the challenge of food insecurity for programme sustainability, our results raise important policy questions regarding compensation for volunteers' valuable labour and poverty reduction through public health sector job creation.

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