Persons living with HIV/AIDS or other chronic illnesses


HIV Ribbon

When individuals and communities are able to realize their rights — to education, social security,  information and, most importantly, non-discrimination — the personal and societal impacts of HIV and AIDS and other chronic illnesses are reduced.

Often persons living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses often face difficulties in accessing social protection benefits including access to health care. However,  individuals are more likely to seek testing in situations where an open and supportive environment exists — one in which where they are protected from discrimination; treated with dignity; have access to treatment, care and support; and where HIV/AIDS is destigmatized. In supportive environments, people who are HIV-positive may also deal with their status more effectively by seeking and receiving treatment and psychosocial support, and by taking measures to prevent transmission to others, thus reducing the impact of HIV on themselves and on others in society.

According to the ILO HIV and AIDS Recommendation (2010), workers living with HIV (and their dependents) should have full health care access, whether this is provided under public health, social security systems or private insurance schemes (para 18). Health care should include free or affordable voluntary counseling and testing, antiretroviral therapy and adherence education, information and support, proper nutrition consistent with treatment, and treatment for opportunistic infections and sexually transmitted infections (as well as other HIV-related illnesses). In addition, support and prevention programmes for people living with HIV, including psychosocial support should be provided (para 19).

There should be no discrimination against workers or their dependents based on real or perceived HIV status in access to social security systems and occupational insurance schemes, or in relation to benefits under such schemes, including for health care and disability, and death and survivors’ benefits (para 20). Access to social security systems and occupational insurance schemes, and the associated benefits (such as survivors’ benefits), should not be impeded by discrimination based on real or perceived HIV status (para 20).

The ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work recommends that governments ensure that benefits under national laws and regulations apply to workers with HIV/AIDS no less favourably than to workers with other serious illnesses. Policy makers should take into account the progressive and intermittent nature of the disease and tailor schemes accordingly in their design and implementation. For example,  benefits should be made available as and when needed, and claims should be treated expeditiously (para 5.1). All workers, including workers with HIV, are entitled to affordable health services (para 4.10).

Photo credit: “HIV Ribbon” by Trygve Utstumo (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).



Expert Commentaries

“Without my pension I would be dead for a long time”: social protection for older persons affected by HIV/AIDS

In the past 15 years, evidence has emerged on the role of social protection in mitigating older people’s vulnerability to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, evidence on older people as carers of orphaned grandchildren revealed their extraordinary commitment for their families, as well as their severe vulnerability, and highlighted the lack of […]

Investment, Commitment and Innovation: Fast-Tracking Social Protection to End AIDS

The Fast-Track approach, a UNAIDS strategy for ending AIDS by 2030, has the potential to change the lives of millions of people around the world. In order to reach the goal of ending AIDS by 2030, we have a fragile window of opportunity of just five years to reach Fast-Track targets with the aim of […]

Legal Instruments

HIV/AIDS Policy of the Public Sector of Belize

The overall purpose of this policy is to promote the health, well-being and productivity of Public Officers by developing and implementing effective HIV/AIDS sustainable prevention, care and control programs; and eliminating stigma and discrimination on the basis of real and perceived HIV status. This Policy establishes a set of guidelines to protect the health and […]

National Policy on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work

This policy, based on principles of human rights, aims to guide the national response to HIV/AIDS in reducing and managing the impact of the epidemic in the world of work. Specifically the policy aims to: Prevent transmission of HIV infection amongst workers and their families; Protect rights of those who are infected and provide access […]

Reproductive Health Policy

The purpose of this Policy & Strategy document is to outline policy statements of the Ministry of Health in support of Reproductive Health including maternal and neonatal health, demonstrating its contribution to the achievement of improved health and wellbeing in Fiji. It maps out a framework of key strategic areas and activities to be implemented […]

National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Policy

The Policy provides the framework for addressing the HIV/AIDS/STI/TB situation in Zambia, outlines the causes and factors that perpetuate transmissions, including the debilitating effect on the Zambian population. It also outlines the response and impact mitigation interventions that are already in place, while also stating the vision, measures, institutional and legal frameworks necessary for its […]

Legal Cases

Protecting the Rights of People Living with HIV in Malawi

Summary:  The appellant, E.L., a 26 year old mother of four living with HIV, was charged and convicted in the lower court under Section 192 of the Malawian Penal Code (Code) for unlawfully (negligently) engaging in an act likely to spread a disease dangerous to life. The prosecution argued that the appellant “unlawfully, negligently and […]

The Right of Children with HIV to Privacy in Kenya

Summary: This case concerns a directive issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta ordering the collection of data and the preparation of a report pertaining to school-going children, guardians, and expectant and breastfeeding mothers living with HIV. The High Court of Kenya at Nairobi found this action to be in violation of the rights to privacy and […]

Guaranteeing life-saving drugs to patients with HIV/AIDS in Venezuela

Summary: The case was brought before the Supreme Court of Venezuela by a group of persons living with HIV, requesting the Instituto Venezolano de Seguros Sociales (Venezuelan Institute for Social Security, IVSS) to ensure the supply of drugs needed to treat diseases arising from AIDS and cover the expenses of the medical tests. The petitioners […]


International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy

Drug control intersects with much of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Member State pledge to leave no one behind. In line with the 2030 Agenda, the UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021 and the HIV, Health and Development Strategy 2016-2021: Connecting the Dots, the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy provide […]

The impact of HIV and AIDS on the world of work: Global estimates

The majority of people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS are of working age. It is essential to understand and measure the economic and social impacts of the epidemic on the labour force. Bringing together health data, in particular HIV prevalence data, with labour force, economic and demographic data, the report sets out […]

HIV and Social Protection Assessment Tool

The HIV and social protection assessment tool is 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. Additional follow-up and research that engages the different critical actors, including HIV programme managers, social protection administrators, beneficiaries and civil society […]

HIV Care and Support

The purpose of this document is to: Describe what HIV care and support is. Describe the purpose of care and support in the context of the 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) Consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection. Illustrate how care and support is essential, alongside HIV treatment, […]

Get on the Fast-Track: The life-cycle approach to HIV

In this report, UNAIDS is announcing that 18.2 million people now have access to HIV treatment. The Fast-Track response is working. Increasing treatment coverage is reducing AIDS-related deaths among adults and children. But the life-cycle approach has to include more than just treatment. Tuberculosis (TB) remains among the commonest causes of illness and death among […]

Social Protection: Advancing the response to HIV

The 10 case studies presented in this document clearly demonstrate that social protection works for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. In particular, they show how social protection benefits the AIDS response through increased access to HIV services for all people including the most marginalized and excluded in society. The studies also demonstrate that carefully […]

Who Cares? The Economics of Dignity

At the centre of the HIV/AIDS response are the 12 million people who need care and treatment. Those who are ill require support from carers who provide physical, social and psychological support. Yet these carers – essential actors in the response – are often invisible to the system that relies on them. The writers argue […]

UNAIDS Expanded Business Case: Enhancing Social Protection

This paper exams why social protection is needed for persons living with HIV;  goals, actions and  results for HIV-sensitive social protection; global priorities in HIV-sensitive social protection and the role of UNAIDS in meeting this goals.

HIV-Sensitive Social Protection: What does the evidence say?

Social protection increases the resilience of households to shock and reduces barriers to essential services. When done well, it is based on a comprehensive assessment of risks and vulnerabilities, including those related to HIV and AIDS. A social protection strategy and its constituent programmes are designed to reduce, mitigate and help people cope with identified […]

Social Protection and Human Rights