Change in economic and social climates has long been known to affect health trends. Times of war and periods of peace yield different results when it comes to public health. The spread if HIV is no different. Many studies have been conducted over long periods of time to try and track just how some of these factors change the spread of the infection. While the concept is simple enough, trying to gather data in times of violent conflict is difficult. For this and other reasons, the research that has been done up to this point has proven inconclusive. In some instances, the research has been contradictory.

As Tensions Rise, So Do Infection Rates

Efforts to help clear up some of the mystery behind the numbers have met with some success. One recently concluded study was able to track the number of HIV infections in times leading up to violent conflicts. Interestingly, the results pointed to higher rates of infection starting about five years before a conflict broke out. Increase in HIV infections was drastic enough to make a clear dividing line between the period before economic and/or social strife began to escalate—and general peace.

The institutions that gathered the information hope to use these conclusions as a springboard to better understand how external environments contribute to the spreading of the virus. It is their goal to be able to reduce HIV transmission before social conditions worsen in an area.

Conflicting Data During Violent Wartime

Just how violent conflict itself changes the rate of infection is still a bit of a mystery. During turbulent times involving bloodshed, the number of new infections seems to decline. Those in the medical community in these areas have their doubts. As mentioned, gathering information in such situations is difficult, and many researchers believe that the numbers may be significantly higher than what is recorded. Once the violence in an area dissipates, the number of newly reported infections begins to increase once again.

The period of time with the highest vulnerability to public health is definitely in the years before violence breaks out. Further insight into how social change and violence affect behaviors may hold answers into how spreading HIV can be curbed during such times.