|© UNICEF/ HQ04-0682/Pirozzi|
|Five-year-old Alina holds her ballet slippers, at home in the city of Kaliningrad. Alina was abandoned by her father and severely neglected by her mother, a drug addict and alcoholic, who has AIDS|
HIV and AIDS profoundly affects children at many levels. A child’s family and community can be hard struck by the effects of AIDS as parents get sick, are not able to work or are not there to protect their children. The results of this can disrupt children’s lives and put their health and security at risk.
What is the response?
Families and communities are often best able to care for children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. In Kenya, cash transfers have kept many children from ending up on the street or in orphanages. The country’s cash transfer programme reached 82,000 households in 2009.
An approach known as social protection offers a comprehensive way to safeguard families against the consequences of events such as HIV infection, which might otherwise force them into destitution. It provides a buffer against shocks for poor and vulnerable women, children and adolescents.
What needs to happen?
Social protection works at all levels – from local and community to national -- to improve health, maintain continuity in education, prevent marginalisation through stigma and discrimination, and reinforce families in the face of poverty and illness.
It includes direct interventions such as cash transfers to families in which a breadwinner has developed AIDS and is unable to work, leaving children in need of food and clothing and school fees.
But it also uses less indirect measures, like encouraging legislation to ban stigma or guarantee assistance for children. This can also help protect girls and young women facing sexual violence, which can increase the risk of HIV infection.
Because social protection takes a holistic approach to safeguarding women and children, it supports the full range of UN Millennium Development Goals, particularly those setting targets for poverty reduction, education and safe and healthy motherhood.
Cash transfers are regular stipends for ultra-poor and marginalized families and help families access basic services and maintain a healthy level of nutrition and a sense of dignity.