Children and HIV and AIDS

Gender Equality, Human Rights and Equity

The facts

Human rights and HIV/AIDS are inextricably linked. A lack of respect for human rights fuels the spread of HIV and exacerbates the impact of the epidemic on children and families. At the same time, HIV undermines progress in the realization of human rights and hampers the scale-up of high impact interventions.

Stigma and discrimination are particularly pronounced for socially excluded populations (e.g. sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men or people who inject drugs) and their families as well as adolescents at higher risk of HIV exposure.

Certain groups are more vulnerable to contracting the HIV virus because they are unable to realize their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Gender-based violence and gender inequality, for example, heightens the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV infection, particularly where access to education, age-appropriate HIV information as well as sexual and reproductive health services necessary to prevent HIV infection are unavailable or inaccessible. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV prevalence among young women and men fell by 42% from 2001 to 2012. Even with these favourable trends, HIV prevalence among young women remains more than twice as high as among young men throughout sub-Saharan Africa. 

Promoting the full realization of all human rights and gender equality is therefore critical for preventing the spread of HIV, mitigating the social and economic impacts of the epidemic, and achieving an AIDS-free generation.

What is the response?

By working towards ending HIV-related stigma and discrimination, eliminating gender inequalities and gender-based violence, we can achieve the twin goals of eliminating new HIV infections among children and keeping women and children well and alive.

This entails for example working to strengthen laws, policies and strategies to protect children and families living with HIV/AIDS and affected by HIV; putting laws, policies and programmes in place to combat gender-based violence and gender inequalities; repealing punitive laws that impede effective responses by driving vulnerable groups underground; empowering women to protect themselves and make informed decisions about their health and that of their children. Countries should also engage with communities, including men and boys, to promote healthy gender norms and adapt HIV programmes to ensure that they reach all those in need, including marginalized groups such as transgender people. 

What is UNICEF doing?

UNICEF is working closely with the Treaty Bodies to support countries in realizing the rights of all children referred to in Conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention to Elimination all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of People with DisabilitiesUNICEF takes a comprehensive, integrated approach to addressing the needs and rights of the whole child at different stages across the lifecycle within the broader context of promoting human rights, gender equality, and equity. 

This entails strengthening systems and building strong linkages across services (e.g. nutrition, maternal and child health services, education, child protection, and social protection) to improve equitable access to and use of proven HIV intervention so that children are born HIV-free, stay HIV-free and are protected from the negative consequences of the epidemic. Working towards the progressive realization of human rights for all children, especially girls, pregnant women and mothers, and families through focused and targeted investments which have broad-based population level impacts is a key guiding principle for UNICEF programming.


 

 

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