The World Food Program has begun distributing monthly rations of 65 kilograms of rice to some 400 families in Burma affected by AIDS and HIV.
The United Nations estimates that up to 500,000 people have the virus in Burma, also known as Myanmar. Regional WFP Spokesperson Heather Hill, in Bangkok, Thailand, explains how food aid can help stop the spread of disease.
"We believe that food is the first line of defense in the fight against AIDS because everybody needs to eat. But in addition to that food plays an important role in keeping members of the household where they are. It stops them from traveling to work. It stops them from engaging in risky practices," she said.
All of the aid recipients live in central Burma, which the WFP says has been hard hit by AIDS. Ms. Hill says this area of Burma was selected in particular for this project because of the large number of people moving about in the region.
"There could be a potential crisis in Myanmar because the conditions for a pandemic exist. There is a trucking route and there is migratory labor. And so what we are doing is distributing food into a community based care program for 400 families who have members living with HIV/AIDS," she said.
Heather Hill, Regional Public Information Officer for Asia for the World Food Program, speaking with us from Bangkok. She says the aid distribution project in Burma is a pilot project. Based on lessons learned initially, the WFP hopes to expand the program.