In 2016, Member States agreed a set of targets at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS to be met to put the world on course to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
One of those targets was to strengthen national social and child protection systems to ensure that, by 2020, 75% of people living with, at risk of or affected by HIV benefit from HIV-sensitive social protection. The target is human rights-based. It feeds into and benefits from promoting, protecting and fulfilling all human rights and the dignity of all people living with, at risk of or affected by HIV.
Evidence of how social protection programmes meet the needs of people who are poor and excluded and benefit people living with, at risk of or affected by HIV is increasing. The question is not whether the AIDS response should increase attention to social protection, but how best to leverage resources and partnerships of movements working on ending poverty and inequality to work effectively towards ending AIDS.
Of 127 countries reporting in the UNAIDS National Composite Policy Index in 2017, 109 (86%) stated that they had an approved social protection strategy, policy or framework in 2016, and 99 of those countries (78%) were implementing those programmes. A total of 85 countries stated that their strategies were HIV-sensitive to at least some extent. More than half (47) of the 87 countries with a coordinating mechanism for their social protection strategy have included their national AIDS programme in that structure. However, only 12 countries reported that their social protection strategies were fully HIV-sensitive.
To step up efforts to get social protection on the Fast-Track, UNAIDS recently held a conference at which the participants heard about how to strengthen national social and child protection systems. The conference focused on three objectives: strengthening the links with social and other movements for ending poverty and inequality; intensifying action on social protection; and reinvigorating programming for HIV, food security and nutrition.
“Stronger linkages are required across health, education and community systems to reduce the vulnerability of people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV through social protection services,” said Tim Martineau, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, a.i.
The event also saw the launch of a new UNAIDS report, Social protection: a Fast-Track commitment to end AIDS. The report provides guidance on how to scale up what works in the context of different HIV epidemics and for different populations. It also provides guidance to governments, people living with or affected by HIV, policy-makers and other stakeholders on how to intensify the integration of HIV with social protection and other programmes for ending poverty and inequality towards ending AIDS.
“We must remember that without improving the material and emotional well-being of people, we cannot end the AIDS epidemic,” said Denys Dmytriiev, from the All Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV.
The International Conference on Fast-Tracking Social Protection to End AIDS was held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 25 and 26 April.