Greater social protection needed for HIV-affected families

Sep 19, 2013

Speakers at the workshop to launch HIV social protection. (Photo: UNDP Cambodia)

Phnom Penh – Families affected by HIV still remain worse off economically in Cambodia, said a new report, which called for a comprehensive action by the government and development partners alike to prevent this vulnerable group of population from falling deeper into poverty.

The report, titled “HIV Sensitive Social Protection: A review of Cambodia’s social protection schemes for incorporating HIV sensitivity,” was launched on Thursday, 19 September.

In her remark at the launch of the report, Country Director of UNDP Cambodia, Setsuko Yamazaki, said the report marked another important step in making sure that people living with HIV and their families are not left behind in the socioeconomic development of the country.

“HIV-sensitive social protection is a way for us to ensure that people living with HIV are part of the human investment so they too can have reduced economic and social vulnerability, and enhanced status and rights,” Ms. Yamazaki said.

Cambodia’s success in tackling HIV/AIDS has come a long way. In 2012, HIV prevalence among adult population was 0.7 percent compared to 1.7 percent in 1998. This represents a significant drop which owes to government’s commitment, combined with supports from development partners and civil society groups, in tackling the HIV epidemic. The anti-retroviral therapy covers over 80 percent of the people in need of the treatment, among the highest in the world.

The report said that, despite these gains, more than 60,000 households affected by or living with HIV are still facing many disproportionate socioeconomic challenges and need social protection schemes. Based on the national average household size of 4.7, this amounts to at least 280,000 individuals, or more than 2 percent of Cambodia’s total population, “who may belong to marginalized sections of society,” said the report, which was produced jointly by Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, Cambodia’s National AIDS Authority, UNAIDS and UNDP. The 2011 UN study revealed that households affected by HIV face severe socioeconomic challenges due to stigma, discrimination, and health issues.

The new publication provided an analytical review of Cambodia’s present social protection mechanisms. The purpose of the review was to identify potential areas where unique needs and circumstances of HIV-affected households and key population groups – including men who have sex with men, transgender persons, sex workers and people who inject drugs – can be incorporated into the national development strategies and relevant social protection schemes.

Ms. Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director, said that, as Cambodia is gradually transforming to be a middle income country, “inequality” remains a major concern. Therefore, she added, “this national review of social protection in the context of HIV is another important step toward ensuring that Cambodia’s social protection scheme will leave no one behind.”