Poverty is a violation of human rights, and increases children’s and young people’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Family poverty significantly limits households’ capacity to protect children against the effects of HIV and AIDS. Poverty is a violation of human rights, and increases children’s and young people’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Family poverty significantly limits households’ capacity to protect children against the effects of HIV and AIDS. Families that are economically vulnerable when HIV strikes are unable to compensate for lost income and are less able to meet the direct and hidden costs of health care, including additional food, medicines, and transport. As a consequence, both affected adults and children in these families are likely to experience greater debilitation from opportunistic infections, more rapid disease progression, and earlier death. The greater caloric needs of individuals living with HIV may also be difficult to meet in poor families, further compromising the health and well-being of children. Since poor households have few savings and assets to compensate for income lost due to adult illness, children may be withdrawn from school and enlisted as carers and earners in efforts to provide for the family. Increasingly, the convergence of AIDS, poverty, and food insecurity means that key long-term investments such as proper nutrition, education, and securing children’s inheritance rights fall by the wayside as families grapple with how to ensure short-term survival (Drimie & Casale, 2008)
Once HIV enters the household, it pushes affected families deeper into poverty, with severe consequences for children’s wellbeing. Supporting children through their families requires making family poverty a central policy concern. Family poverty and gender inequality must be tackled to improve the outcomes for children affected by HIV and AIDS. (JLICA 2009.)
HIV-sensitive social protection measures — such as social assistance and social insurance, home-based care, education, and equity and rights-based interventions — can reduce vulnerability to infection, improve and extend the lives of people living with HIV and support individuals and households. The positive impact of these measures on children and adolescents is well recognized.
Here are the key recommendations for reducing the impacts of poverty and youth vulnerability to HIV infection from the RIATT-ESA Call to Action (2015).
- Scale-up cash transfer programmes for poor households, including those affected by HIV and AIDS.
- Increase the awareness and effectiveness of health and social service providers to the severe impacts of HIV on children, adolescents, families/carers.
- Ensure adolescents have access to HIV sensitive social protection interventions, particularly cash transfers, care and psychosocial support.
- Strengthen the legal protection of children, adolescents, families and carers pertaining to land and its inheritance – including by supporting access to paralegal and legal service and by providing information on human rights.