1 December 2014

World AIDS Day: HIV /AIDS & Social Protection


Statement issued by: Dr Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary-General, on December 1, 2014

There is increasing evidence that social protection systems* reduce the spread of HIV /AIDS. In much of the world, HIV / AIDS is linked with poverty, lack of understanding and the absence of modern health facilities being a part of day-to-day life.

Social workers globally are directly involved with providing community education and support to the peoples who live and die with the virus. Our on-the-ground experience has highlighted that social protection systems, not only enable people to receive life-saving antiretroviral treatment, but they also enable people to remain in work or receive some benefit that provides essential income for their families. Social protection systems also play a significant role in breaking down the stigma of HIV /AIDS enabling more to access to help.

There is a tendency from international bodies to focus on HIV / AIDS treatment, rather than developing sustainable systems that become a pillar within communities, – providing support, safety and a future to all members of society.

Not focusing on the added benefits of social protections systems is short sighted. Social workers all to often work with children who have become orphaned and whose extended family’s resources have become exhausted by the extra burdens to care. Social workers know from firsthand experience that whole generations of people are being deprived of stable caring family environments and subsequently they spiral into further social problems and hardship.

Social protections systems have a positive effect on the economy. This is demonstrated by researchers at Oxford and Stanford Universities who showed that for every $1 invested in social protection systems, there is a $3 return to the economy. People live longer, with fewer health problems and in communities with reduced levels of stress and crime.

A key principle of social work is ‘capacity building’ and turning ‘tragedies into opportunities’. IFSW has joined the call for the UN post-2015 development agenda to include the goal of all countries having Social Protections Systems that leave no one behind, including people living with HIV /AIDS.

* Social protection systems should ensure that over the life cycle, all people have access to essential health care, to adequate income security, and social support services.