Demobilization and its implications for HIV/AIDS

Demobilization and its implications for HIV/AIDS

Problems affecting disarmament, demobilization and reinsertion (DDR)

Traditionally demobilization of military personnel has followed the signature of peace accords to facilitate the transition from war to peace and to preserve national and international security. Encouraged by international financial organizations, many countries are also restructuring their public expenditure, reducing military budget allocations and downsizing military personnel to shift scarce resources to, for instance, poverty reduction.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been particularly hard hit by conflicts, causing massive destruction, death and displacement of people.

But with very high HIV rates among some militaries, the implications of large-scale discharges are enormous. Demobilization in SSA countries must therefore be viewed in the context of repeated political instability, economic crisis and the AIDS epidemic.

Paper gives overview and background to the challenges presented by the discharge of personnel. Policy recommendations suggest that::

  • Demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants is a crucial element in the successful transition from war to peace and ensuring national and regional security. It may also represent an opportunity for fiscal savings, allowing governments to shift scarce resources to urgently needed poverty reduction
  • Donors and organisations currently involved in demobilization activities must therefore make HIV/AIDS prevention and control an integral part of their policy planning and programmes
  • For an effective HIV/AIDS strategy for the military, it is essential that interventions are already planned and implemented during peace-time and included in the training programme of all military personnel
  • Interventions should target all military personnel, their families as well as the communities to which they return
  • More emphasis and resources will have to be dedicated to meeting the needs of those infected and their families, to improve access to treatment and care. Long-term financial provisions should be included in demobilization/downsizing budgets
  • Communities accepting returnees need to be sensitized towards the needs of ex-combatants and should be involved in planning and implementation of activities
  • The possibilities of engaging military personnel as outreach workers for HIV/AIDS prevention programs should be further explored
  • As few attempts have been made to integrate HIV/AIDS prevention into demobilization activities, agencies will have to pay more attention to the development of technical skills, guidelines and training capacities

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