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From VOA Learning English, this is the Science Report. Drought, a severe lack of rainfall, means farmers might not have crops to sell. Now, a recent study says drought also could mean more HIV infections. Many people in rural areas of Africa south of the Sahara desert depend on agriculture to earn money. Kelly Jones is an economist at the International Food Policy Research Institute. She says lack of rainfall is a main reason for financial bad news in sub-Saharan Africa. The new study says protecting people from financial hardship may reduce their likelihood of risky behaviors that spread HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is the virus blamed for the disease AIDS.
Ms. Jones and her team compared rainfall patterns over the past 10 years to HIV rates in villages in 19 African countries. She says her research team made a surprising discovery about drought. They found that the presence of drought can predict a higher level of HIV infections in a community. In fact, the number of HIV cases was 11 percent higher for every drought.
The researchers said the most likely explanation was that people were dealing with the crisis by trading sex for financial support. That raised their risk of HIV. Kelly Jones says the researchers looked at the groups of individuals with the highest HIV rates: women farmers and non-farming men. Ms. Jones says easier access to credit and bank savings accounts could help. Another way is a weather-based crop insurance system to protect farmers from crop losses. Ms. Jones adds that it is also important to urge farmers to grow more drought-tolerant crops.