With an Aids disaster no longer avoidable in Africa, there is an urgent need to begin planning for large-scale loss of life and the serious impact on economies and development.
In response, the European Union has just launched a major study of three countries in the region, headed by South African Aids expert Alan Whiteside, and aimed at formulating Aids disaster alleviation strategies for developing countries around the world. The Pounds 145,500 project, one of the largest contracts ever awarded to a South African university, is being undertaken by the Economic Research Unit at the University of Natal.
"This project is not about the prevention of Aids," Mr Whiteside says. "Even if infections were to stop today there would still be vast numbers of people falling ill and dying of Aids. The project is about planning for the epidemic."
South Africa is the base, but case studies will be conducted in Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Zambia. "South Africans are still living in cloud cuckoo-land. They do not believe Aids is going to be as bad as we know it will be. We are going to countries which will be receptive,"said Mr Whiteside.
The study's results will be used for Aids policy formation both in Southern Africa and abroad. "We hope it will help raise awareness of the many problems posed by Aids, and help governments prepare national Aids plans."