The Impact of HIV/-AIDS on Elections

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The bow of the HIV/Aids pandemic ripples out to issues of electoral participation and representation.

By Catherine Sasman

WINDHOEK

‘The Political Cost of Aids in Africa’, a research study done by the Institute for Democracy in Southern Africa (IDASA) on the impact of HIV/Aids on the electoral systems in six southern African countries, suggests that the fledgling multi-party democracies are put under a heavy strain by the pandemic.

The book, which was launched in Windhoek yesterday, suggests electoral reforms in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) incorporate provisions dealing with the impact of the crippling disease.

However, Dr Justine Hunter of the Namibia Institute of Democracy (NID), said while any reforms should not exclude issues related to HIV/Aids, reforms cannot be limited to considerations arising from the pandemic.

The three-year study, therefore, suggests innovative and holistic responses to address the issue.
The study looked at the attrition among elected political leaders and the cost of replacing them; the loss of elected representatives, the effects on constituents, and the power dynamics in parliamentary structures and democratic governance; the failure to maintain voter registers and how this affects the credibility of electoral outcomes; and the effect of stigma and discrimination on political participation.

“Because of Aids we asked some inevitable questions: Will Aids render political institutions weaker? Will loss of adults impact on productivity, resulting in poor economic performance and affect citizen confidence in elected governments? Will infected citizens withdraw from political life? Given the fore-going, can democracy be sustained?” said IDASA Manager of the Governance and Aids Programme, Kondwani Chirambo.

HIV/Aids Scenario

Statistics on HIV/Aids in sub-Sahara taken between June 2000 and July 2002 showed that about 4.5 percent of the population was infected with HIV. A worldwide statistics at the time showed a prevalence of 0.66 percent. In SADC, the HIV prevalence was 7.18 percent.

That means that five million people in South Africa were infected during that period; 2.5 million in Zimbabwe, 1.2 million in Zambia, and 360??????’??

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