Responses to emergencies caused by conflict or natural disasters are typically confined to addressing basic needs such as food, shelter and fuel, water and sanitation and immediate health provision through disease treatment or prevention. Less well-recognised, however, is the relevance of HIV at the planning and initial stages of emergency response.
This paper argues that emergency practitioners need a better understanding of the links between emergencies and vulnerability to HIV. It illustrates how HIV-related considerations need to be taken into account from the earliest point of response to an emergency and through every stage of involvement. The paper stresses that HIV-related considerations need to go beyond a narrowly medical or even general health-care focus, and calls for a concerted multi-sectoral approach to ensure that the diverse and complex issues raised by HIV in emergency situations are addressed. The paper identifies key considerations that need to be taken into account, and invites humanitarian agencies to review their policies and practices, and implement any changes needed in the light of the issues identified.