The farm workers still on the farms and those who have been displaced have been caught up, like the wider society, in the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Food shortage and hunger have worsened the conditions of those living with HIV-AIDS. Deprived of regular incomes and reasonable access to housing and safe water, households lack the capacity to provide food and basic care to the sick. There is little comprehensive data on prevalence rates of HIV-AIDS in farm worker communities. However, isolated studies in the mid-1990s indicated that prevalence ranged from 23 to 36 per cent among ante-natal clients in Midlands province, and between 20 and 39 per cent on commercial farms nationwide (Mutangadura and Jackson, 2001). A reasonable estimate would be a 25 per cent infection rate among the sexually active population on farms, with infection levels much higher among casual and seasonal workers (ibid). The infection has affected productivity on the farms and in households, because of time away from work being sick, caring for the sick or attending funerals. The scenario is of a substantial loss of able-bodied adults. This:
in farming areas (among both new settlers and farm workers) over the next decade, with resultant setbacks in farm operations and productivity, has not been adequately woven into the overall planning for agrarian reform in Zimbabwe. A worst-case scenario is that much of the productive land being redistributed may well become underutilized in a few years as a consequence of loss of settlers and labourers to the AIDS epidemic. (UNDP, 2002)
In the informal settlements, the incidence of HIV-AIDS is reaching disturbing levels. It is difficult to establish whether the national AIDS awareness campaign is leading to behavioural change.
Our survey sought the level of AIDS awareness among the survey respondents. Almost everyone was aware of the existence of HIV-AIDS, and knew how it was spread. The majority of respondents had heard about the disease from radio, the village health worker, health personnel and friends. Curiously, 6 per cent of respondents believed that HIV-AIDS could be caused by mosquito bites while 1.4 per cent thought that one could catch it by sharing clothes with an infected person (interviews, October-November 2002). This would suggest that there is still some way to go in raising greater knowledge on how HIV-AIDS is spread.