In Search of a Secure Future: Social Protection for People Living with HIV
Thirty-five year old Harihar's life changed after he and his wife were tested HIV positive in 2007. His inability to work put severe financial pressure on his family. However, UNDP's support in extending social protection schemes to PLHIV, has helped people like Harihar secure a future for themselves and their families.
Thirty-five year old Harihar Babu had a comfortable job as a taxi driver earning INR 10,000-12,000 every month.
- An estimated 2.24 million people live with HIV in India
- An increase in health expenditure of PLHIVs impacts expenditure on education and consumption
- Linking social protection to HIV responses is critical to overcoming structural inequalities
- UNDP works closely with National AIDS Control Organisation to extend social protection to PLHIVs
- 35 social protection schemes benefiting 150,000 PLHIV have been amended till date, according to NACO
- UNDP’s support has helped many PLHIV families secure a future for themselve
He travelled frequently, driving passengers all over his home state of Chhattisgarh. But all this changed in 2007 when he and his wife tested HIV positive. He says, "I thought that as long as I kept quiet about my illness, it would not affect my family or income." But the bouts of illness became longer and more pronounced and driving over long distances became impossible for Harihar. In 2008, Harihar began Anti-Retroviral Treatment. In addition to dealing with the stigma of living with HIV, his inability to work put severe financial and emotional strain on his family. Harihar witnessed his income decline by 50 percent.
In January 2011, Harihar and his family were able to avail of subsidised foodgrain through a nation-wide scheme that provides subsidised foodgrain to families living below the poverty line thanks to a special amendment by the Chhattisgarh government to include people living with HIV.
Harihar’s family can now buy rice sugar and salt at nominal prices. This support has gone a long way in ensuring the family has enough nutrition in times of distress.
This was possible because of UNDP’s support to expand the scope and inclusion criteria of existing social protection schemes to be more HIV-sensitive and reach out to the marginalised, especially women and girls living with HIV. According to Patrice Coeur-Bizot, UNDP Resident Representative, "A range of amendments across state social protection schemes have focused on nutritional needs, transport, housing and pension for People Living with HIV."
An estimated 2.24 million people live with HIV in India. HIV has a significant impact on households. A UNDP-National Council on Applied Economic Research study revealed that a 10 percent increase in health expenditure by PLHIV households reduces expenditure on education and consumption. Further, it is estimated that illness within an HIV household results in a 66 percent loss in income when PLHIV workers are not able to work.
According to Caitlin Wiesen, Country Director, UNDP,"Linking social protection to HIV responses is critical in helping overcome structural inequalities and barriers that people living with HIV face in accessing essential services," she added.
With huge costs in terms of healthcare expenditure and lost income, families living with HIV run the risk of sliding into poverty. The severe socio-economic impact faced by PLHIVs is aggravated by stigma and discrimination which slows down access to HIV prevention and treatment services. Universalising access to healthcare and minimising the impact of HIV and AIDS on people and families has emerged as a crucial strategy for an effective AIDS response.
"I no longer have to ask others for money to buy medicines", says Amita Devi from Gorakpur in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Widowed at the age of 27 and disowned by her husband’s family, members of the District Network of People Living with HIV helped her access the widow pension scheme, amended to include HIV widows and a housing grant under the Indira Awaas Yojana.
For a country like India which spends close to two percent of its Gross Domestic Product on social protection mechanisms, extending social protection to PLHIVs through state led poverty reduction programmes can go a long way in ensuring people like Harihar Babu and Amita Devi are able to secure a future for themselves and their families.
 : Till date 35 state social protection schemes benefitting 150,000 PLHIV have been amended according to the National AIDS Control Organisation, Government of India.
 : India HIV Estiamtes-2008 (provisional), 2007, 2006, National AIDS Control Organisation.
 : Socio-economic impact of HIV and AIDS in India, UNDP-NCAER, 2006.
 : The Indira Awaas Yojana is a nation-wide scheme launched in 1985 that provides financial assistance for housing to families living below the poverty line.