This study for the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) found that HIV/AIDS has, and is negatively impacting the management and conservation of natural resources in the African countries studied. HIV/AIDS has impacted the conservation workforce, conservation activities, and finances of conservation government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities. Specifically, HIV/AIDS has caused accelerated rates of illnesses and deaths among park wardens, rangers, community game guards, senior officials and other conservation personnel; accelerated rates of payment of terminal benefits by conservation government agencies; created competition for scarce financial resources between HIV/AIDS demands and conservation activities; led to accelerated and unsustainable rates of harvesting of medicinal plants and wildlife; is destroying communal social structures on which community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) is based; and has led to land use changes in some places.

It was found that many conservation government agencies, NGOs, and communities have recognized HIV/AIDS as a serious threat to conservation and natural resource management activities. Some of these institutions have developed coping strategies to deal with the impacts. Among existing coping strategies are HIV/AIDS policies with various components including hiring of occupational nurses and social workers to assist impacted conservation staff, non-discrimination in employment of people with HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS awareness programs; medical boarding of conservation employees; a well-being program for conservation employees with HIV/AIDS; and provision of anti-retroviral drugs to pregnant employees. Some protected area authorities are helping local communities by allowing controlled harvesting of medicinal plants and other resources, such as reeds, that cannot be found outside of national parks and protected areas. They are also helping to propagate the plants outside protected areas by encouraging and assisting local communities and others to cultivate them in their gardens. Likewise, conservation efforts help to conserve genetic diversity that can be important for developing future medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

However, only a few conservation agencies, NGOs, and communities had implemented strategies to cope with the pandemic. The majority of conservation institutions have not implemented HIV/AIDS coping strategies. Of particular concern during the field work was that the fact few CBNRM projects had provided solutions to cope with HIV/AIDS impacts in rural villages that require enormous external interventions to manage their natural resources sustainably. Yet more initiatives have been started recently to work with local communities.

This study makes various recommendations to government conservation agencies, NGOs, communities practicing CBNRM, and other concerned parties on various measures and mechanisms that can be taken to prevent and/ or mitigate the impacts of HIV/AIDS on natural resource management and conservation. These recommendations include: sharing findings of this study and lessons learned with other regions, especially West and Central Africa and learning any existing coping strategies from them; conducting further in-depth analysis on the effects of HIV/AIDS impacts on the use of wildlife, medicinal plants, and forest resources as well as agricultural lands; incorporation of HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation strategies in conservation programs; adoption of a multisectoral approach in the fight against HIV/AIDS pandemic and its impacts on conservation and management of natural resources; holding of HIV/AIDS workshops for African conservation leaders and other conservation representatives, and hosting of training for field staff on coping strategies and monitoring the long-term impacts of HIV/AIDS to natural resources and land use.

Value to the Community Report describing the impacts of HIV/AIDS on NRM and highlights coping strategies from conservation government agencies, NGOs, and communities in East and Southern Africa