Water and HIV-AIDS

Water and HIV/AIDS

In 2012, over 35 million people in the world were living with HIV/AIDS and approximately 1.6 million people died of HIV/AIDS-related sickness.[1] Those living in developing nations are the greatest affected by HIV/AIDS and represent the fastest growing sector of HIV/AIDS individuals. Access to safe, clean water is extremely limited in many communities with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, especially those in rural or remote areas.

The care of HIV/AIDS individuals requires access to clean, safe water nearby. Having a nearby source of water is especially beneficial when individuals weakened by HIV/AIDS are not able to walk long distances to obtain water. HIV/AIDS patients are susceptible to skin and eye conditions that need to be washed with clean water. Many HIV/AIDS patients contract fungal infection of the mouth or throat that can cause a burning or dry sensation. These symptoms can be greatly alleviated by safe drinking water.

Many anti-retroviral treatments and drugs that HIV/AIDS individuals require need clean, safe water in order to be effective. In addition, mothers with HIV/AIDS feed their infants with formula instead of breast milk, however, water is necessary to mix the formula and unsafe water puts the babies at risk of contracting life-threatening diarrhea or other water-borne diseases and infections.

Those with compromised immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS patients, are more prone to common illnesses and diseases, especially diarrhea. In the least developed countries, up to 90 percent of AIDS patients in Africa suffer from chronic diarrheal diseases, which contribute to an increase in diarrheal deaths.[2] When access to clean water is available, fecal and oral transmission of diarrhea-causing agents may be prevented. If we can increase access to clean water, we can slow the proliferation of deaths caused by diarrheal diseases and provide much needed relief to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Without clean water, those affected by the disease have little hope of maintaining an acceptable quality of life. It is crucial that the fight against HIV/AIDS includes a clean water initiative to prolong lives, improve health, and render medications more effective. Establishing sustainable water points like water wells, hand pumps, and spring caps close to home in the rural areas of Africa and Asia helps improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS and their families. As Lifewater continues to respond to the need for clean water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene around the world, life expectancy increases and hope of a better day is restored in the midst of this deadly disease.


[1] “Global Health Observatory: HIV/AIDS (2012),” World Health Organization, last updated 2014, http://www.who.int/gho/hiv/en.

[2] C.L. Obi, B. Onabolu, M.N.B. Momba, J.O. Igumbor, J. Ramalivahna, P.O. Bessong, E.J. van Rensburg, M. Lukoto, E. Green, and T.B. Mulaudzi, “The interesting cross-paths of HIV/AIDS and water in Southern Africa with special reference to South Africa,” South African Water Research Commission, Vol. 32 No. 3 (July 2006): 323.