War as a Cause of Spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections
It has usually been noted that HIV prevalence in war-torn countries or those that are recovering from conflicts is usually very high. This can be seen in several African countries, such as Burundi and Zaire. One of the main factors that may lead to this situation is the increased levels of commercial and casual sex. During peacekeeping activities or wars, many people are rendered homeless and poor. In order to survive and feed their families, many women may turn to commercial sex in order to get some money. Other women engage in casual sex in order to gain the security that comes with being with another person. Increased interaction between military personnel and civilians may also lead to the spread of HIV as combatants are known for their high-risk behaviors. These risky habits are one of the key causes of this phenomenon.
The second linkage between the two is that during war and peacekeeping activities, there is a decreased availability of health services. People cannot acquire the means of protection against HIV and AIDS. Contraception such as condoms are in low supply; hence most of the sexual activities being perpetuated are unsafe. The presence of antiretroviral medications and other drugs that may reduce the viral load are also hard to find; therefore, the transmission of HIV from one person to another is very easy. Another factor that may contribute to this phenomenon is the increase in sexual violence and predation. It has been seen in countries such as Rwanda and Burundi that sexual violence can be used as a means of war. Armies may prey on women and children to instill fear or just due to hatred. This further enables the rapid spread of HIV within the population.
The final linkage is the increased level of population mixing due to the internal displacement of people. People from different parts of the country with different cultures believe they intermingle and, in the process, interact emotionally, physically, and even sexually. Places where the disease was concentrated, may spread it to other parts due to internal population movement. Internal displacement also makes it easier for combatants and other people to perpetrate sexual violence against the insecure women and children displaced from their homes. Over time, research has proved that there is a marked increase in the spread of HIV during conflicts and peacekeeping missions. Sexual violence and an increase in high-risk behaviors are usually responsible for this phenomenon. A health worker once stated that “War is a very strong ally of HIV and AIDS.”