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The Synergistic Relationship Between Climate Change and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: A Conceptual Framework


Climate change and HIV/AIDS represent two of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st century. However, limitations in understanding the complex relationship between these syndemics continue to constrain advancements in the prevention and management of HIV/AIDS in the context of a rapidly changing climate. Here, we present a conceptual framework that identifies four pathways linking climate change with HIV/AIDS transmission and health outcomes: increased food insecurity, increased prevalence of other infectious diseases, increased human migration, and erosion of public health infrastructure. This framework is based on an in-depth literature review in PubMed and Google Scholar from June 6 to June 27, 2019. The pathways linking climate change with HIV transmission and health outcomes are complex with multiple interacting factors. Food insecurity emerged as a particularly important mediator by driving sexual risk-taking behaviours and migration, as well as by increasing susceptibility to infections that are common among people living with HIV (PLWHIV). Future interventions should focus on decreasing carbon dioxide emissions globally and increasing education and investment in adaptation strategies, particularly in those areas of sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia heavily impacted by both HIV and climate change. Environmentally sustainable interventions such as urban gardening and investing in sustainable agriculture technologies also have significant health co-benefits that may help PLWHIV adapt to the environmental consequences of climate change.

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