There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that social protection can reduce the risk of HIV infection and poor treatment outcomes by addressing some of the key drivers of HIV among children, adolescents and women, such as poverty, gender inequality, and lack of access to education or ability to stay in school.  

Social protection covers a range of public and private economic and social policies and programmes that aim to reduce the consequences of poverty, vulnerability and exclusion across the life course. In recent years, cash transfer programmes have received increasing attention for their potential to exert significant positive impacts on HIV through influencing the social determinants of health.  

The transition from adolescence to adulthood brings significant social, health and economic risks that all contribute to elevating the risk of HIV infection. At the same time, this is one of the best points in the life cycle to intervene to break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability. Cash transfers have been found to reduce the risk of HIV infection among adolescents, particular among girls and young women. Among the most vulnerable, cash transfers combined with complementary interventions or linkages to existing health and social services (“cash plus”) have been found to be the most effective models for reducing HIV-risk behaviour, psychosocial problems and lack of adherence to treatment in children and adolescents. 

UNICEF is supporting various research projects that evaluate the impact of social protection and cash plus programmes on adolescents, health and well-being, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. For more information, visit UNICEF’s pages on social protection and cash plus or review the portfolio of The Transfer Project

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Social protection: a Fast-Track commitment to end AIDS

Guidance for policy-makers, and people living with, at risk of or affected by HIV. How to bring to scale what works in the context of different HIV epidemics and for different populations.

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HIV and social protection assessment tool

Generating evidence for policy and action on HIV and social protection.  Used for a quick scan of existing social protection programmes and their sensitivity (or lack of) to the HIV response in a given country and location.

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Social Protection Policy Briefs

Research Implications for Policy by UNICEF, RIATT Coalition, Eastern and Southern Africa (2018)