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Southern Africa is facing a serious humanitarian crisis with severe long-term consequences affecting the entire region. Erratic rainfall, poor governance, poverty, unsustainable debt, failing agricultural policies, unfair international trade regimes, and collapsing public services have all contributed to the current situation, but without HIV/AIDS the crisis would not be of the same dimensions. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is at the heart of the crisis, which threatens the lives of some 16 million people. In some of the most countries affected, rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence are as high as 33 per cent, with widespread effects on health, education, and productivity throughout society.

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