In June 2001 the UN General Assembly’s Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS stated that ‘populations destabilised by armed conflict … including refugees, internally displaced persons, and in particular women and children, are at increased risk of exposure to HIV infection’. It called upon ‘all United Nations agencies, regional and international organisations, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved with the provision and delivery of international assistance to countries and regions affected by conflicts … to incorporate as a matter of emergency HIV/AIDS prevention, care and awareness elements into their plans and programmes’. The extent to which this has taken place is questionable. As Susan Purdin ( Purdin et al. 2001 ) notes, ‘many - though by no means all – multi-lateral, national, and nongovernmental bodies have issued policy statements that recognise the importance of reproductive health services, and HIV/AIDS prevention and care services in particular, for refugees. The policies, however, are too often stronger on paper than in practice.’
There are strong humanitarian, epidemiological, and strategic reasons for increasing efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS spreading amongst displaced persons, and providing medicines to those living with HIV/AIDS. Managing the crisis is not beyond hope. If sufficient resources and commitment are made available, prevalence and mortality rates could be reduced. Above all, what is required is an understanding of the needs of displaced persons and an active response to those needs. As Ruud Lubbers (2003a), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, notes, ‘refugees should neither be blamed for the HIV/AIDS pandemic and nor should they be ignored’.