Posted by Share-Net NL on March 24, 2015 at 4:32 am
Poverty alone is not necessarily a driver of HIV risk. It interacts with other structural factors – including mobility, social and economic inequalities, and a lack of education and social capital – that increase HIV vulnerability, especially among groups such as young women. In turn, HIV can push people into poverty, placing adolescent girls and women in risky situations and compounding overall vulnerability. Social protection, especially cash transfers, can play a powerful role in addressing these structural drivers of HIV infection risk. UNICEF and EPRI have written a policy brief, that explains the recent evidence and gives policy recommendations. The summary of the brief can hopefully help you to further understand the importance of social protection in preventing HIV.
Evidence from South Africa’s Child Support Grant e.g. shows that female adolescents living in households receiving cash transfers were less likely to have sex in exchange for food, shelter, school fees, transport or money. Households receiving transfers generally increase their spending on and consumption of food. By reducing food insecurity, and other poverty and inequality-related drivers of risky sexual behaviour, social protection thus contributes to HIV prevention.
Social protection furthermore strengthens prevention gains through education. Education is considered a ‘social vaccine’ for HIV due to a direct link between educational attainment and reduced HIV vulnerability. A strong body of evidence demonstrates that cash and in-kind transfers (such as food and uniforms) can increase school enrolment and attendance. A study in Zimbabwe showed a reduction in school dropout rates by 82% 2 years after cash and in-kind transfers were introduced.
Social protection promotes gender equality. Empowerment of women and girls can increase their social status and strengthen their ability to negotiate sexual relationships. An example from Zimbabwe shows that adolescent girls were reported to have more equitable gender attitudes and were able to demand condom use or refuse sex.
Social protection has the potential to address both direct and indirect barriers to accessing healthcare. A cash transfer, for example, may free up financial resources to make transportation costs toclinics affordable. Evidence from an Indian programme where women were given cash to deliver in a health facility showed an increase in number of antenatal care visits and an increase of health facility based deliveries. Social protection programmes thus hold the potential to increase the uptake of critical prevention health services, such as HIV treatment, counselling and testing, andPMTCT services.
This article is based on the HIV-Sensitive Social Protection Policy Brief entitled Social Protection Programmes Contribute to HIV Prevention, January 2015 by UNICEF and EPRI.
Discussion Paper: Cash Transfers and HIV Prevention, UNDP, 2014.
HIV and Social Protection, UNAIDS 2014 Guidance
This article appeared in the Children and AIDS e-news of February 2015. Read this 7th edition or sign up for upcoming editions.