HEARD Research Director at the Forefront of the Fight Against the HIV Pandemic in Africa
Research Director of the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) Professor Kaymarlin Govender chaired a session organised by UNAIDS, the United Nations’ World Food Programme, and the International Labour Organization in November 2021 under the banner: Advancing the HIV-sensitive social protection agenda of key stakeholders in Eastern and Southern Africa through capacity strengthening. HEARD is a research centre under UKZN’s College of Law and Management Studies.
The meeting provided a platform for consultation and exchange between the UN, national governments, civil society organisations, networks of people living with HIV/AIDS and academia. Participants reflected on practical experiences and strategies and produced recommendations to enhance the HIV-sensitive social protection agenda in the region in line with the 2021-26 Global AIDS Strategy.
Govender chaired a special session on the Investment Case for HIV-sensitive Social Protection which featured Dr Elona Toska, an adolescent health researcher at the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town. Her presentation focused on measures to expand access to primary, secondary and tertiary schooling and pathways to employment as effective HIV prevention strategies.
Mr Juan Gonzalo Jaramillo Mejia, Social Protection Programme Policy Officer at the World Food Programme examined how research frameworks can better centre social protection systems within a comprehensive (epi-smart) strategy for prevention, treatment, care and support. Mr Kintu Kenny, a public health practitioner; sexual reproductive health and rights trainer; and human rights activist, discussed ways in which civil society can be engaged in the design and implementation of HIV-sensitive social protection.
Govender said the discussions were prompted by increased recognition that HIV infections are driven by multiple factors at individual, community and societal levels which has led to calls for greater attention and political support for the development of HIV-sensitive social protection. This entails programmes that adequately support people living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV. A wide body of evidence shows that social protection can be a critical enabler of efforts to reduce general HIV risks, mitigate their impacts, and increase households’ capacity to cope with and respond to such risks.
Govender’s participation in the meeting is in line with HEARD’s mandate, as the division occupies an important interface between research, policy, and advocacy; working with research and advocacy groups to generate innovative ideas and ensuring these translate into practical policies to overcome the enormous burden of disease in Africa.
The November webinar series will inform the Social Protection Technical Working Group’s (also to be chaired by Govender) 2022 regional work plan to support and strengthen the Regional AIDS Team for eastern and southern Africa’s efforts to scale up HIV-sensitive social protection initiatives at regional and country level.