India: Social protection for people living with HIV


Through the scheme, HIV positive women were able to secure a job in electronics to help them continue leading a normal life. Photo: Nazia Erum/ UNDP India

Thirty-five year old Harihar Babu had a comfortable job as a taxi driver earning Rupees 10,000-12,000 every month. He travelled frequently, driving passengers all over his home state of Chhattisgarh in central India.

But all this changed in 2007 when he and his wife tested HIV positive.

“I thought that as long as I kept quiet about my illness, it would not affect my family or income,” he said.

Highlights

  • An estimated 2.24 million people live with HIV in India.
  • By the end of 2011, 35 state social protection schemes had started providing food, transport, housing and pensions for people living with HIV.
  • Close to 150,000 people living with HIV are now accessing such schemes.

But the bouts of illness became longer and driving over long distances became impossible for him. In addition to dealing with the stigma of living with HIV, Babu saw his income decline by 50 percent.

In January 2011, Babu and his family received monthly food rations through a nationwide scheme that provides subsidized food to families living below the poverty line. He and his family found relief thanks to a special amendment approved by the Chhattisgarh government to include people living with HIV.

Babu’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.

In 2007, UNDP began work in India to expand the criteria of existing social protection schemes to be more HIV-sensitive and to reach out to marginalized groups, especially women and girls living with HIV. According to data from India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), by the end of 2011, 35 state social protection schemes had started providing food, transport, housing and pensions for people living with HIV. Close to 200,000 people living with HIV are now accessing such schemes.

“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,” said Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP’s country director in India.

An estimated 2.24 million people live with HIV in India. A joint UNDP and NACO study showed that when people living with HIV spend extra money on health care, it directly affects how much the household can spend on education and food. When they are no longer able to work, the study showed a 66 percent loss in income for the household. Universalizing access to healthcare and minimizing the impact of HIV and AIDS on people and families has emerged as a crucial strategy for an effective AIDS response.

For a country like India, which spends close to two percent of its gross domestic product on social protection mechanisms, extending social protection to people living with HIV through state-led poverty reduction programmes can go a long way in ensuring that people like Babu are able to secure a future for themselves and their families in this country of 1.21 billion people.

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