The importance of HIV sensitive social protection programmes has been emphasised in a recent report published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The report entitled, 'Access to and effects of social protection on workers living with HIV and their households' examines research from Guatemala, Indonesia, Rwanda and Ukraine, highlighting a significant lack of HIV sensitive social security programmes for people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Social protection programmes include schemes to reduce poverty, increase employment opportunities, and provide affordable healthcare and insurance to low-income families. The report finds that social security programmes are linked to reductions in inequality and in the structural barriers affecting PLHIV. Where these social safety nets exist, 63-95 percent of individuals were able to stay in employment, 49-99 percent stated that their children remained in school, and 72-86 percent had access to antiretroviral treatment.
Despite the importance of social protection programmes for PLHIV, the study emphasises the barriers and challenges people face in accessing such programmes. The study found that social protection programmes within the four countries were most commonly accessed through public or private sectors, and did not include the informal sector where a large proportion of PLHIV work. A lack of awareness of social protection programmes and complicated procedural requirements for accessing the programmes also stopped people benefitting from them.
Alice Quedraogo, Chief of ILO’s HIV/AIDS and the World of Work Branch states, “Access to antiretroviral treatment keeps people living with HIV alive. But too often, the lack of broader social protection benefits keeps women and men, and their households, vulnerable and poor.” The report calls on the importance of establishing social protection programmes that not only focus on increasing access to HIV treatment, but also takes into account other important factors such as livelihoods and economic support.