The spread of HIV/AIDS is among the many deplorable effects of the continuous violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While the country as a whole has an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 3.2%, UNAIDS reports that prevalence of the infection among women who have suffered sexual violence in areas of armed conflict may be as high as 20%.
The eastern provinces have seen an astounding number of terror rapes–one every half hour, 24 hours every day–with a corresponding rise in HIV/AIDS.
Children are affected, too, both by infections through mother-to-child transmission and the loss of a parent to the disease. According to UNAIDS, 120,000 children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV.
While Congolese government efforts to fight the epidemic are not inconsiderable and the US provided $10.6 million specifically for essential HIV/AIDS programs to the DRC through USAID in fiscal 2008, getting assistance to the war zones is all but impossible. Over 1,000,000 people are homeless as a direct result of the fighting in the region, further complicating the delivery of essential medical services of all types.
While there is little we as individuals can do to stop the violence in the DRC, we can help its victims. One organization I support is Women For Women International, a leading force in helping women and their families re-establish their lives.