Bangkok: Households in Asian countries, including India, that have people living with HIV exhaust their savings and liquidate assets at a high rate, plunging them into "irreversible poverty", says a study released Thursday by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
Catastrophic health care costs, stigma and unemployment mean these households consume less food of lower quality and keep fewer children in school, said the report titled "Socio-Economic Impact of HIV at the Household Level in Asia: A Regional Analysis".
The report called for urgent mitigation measures, including HIV-sensitive social protection, to arrest this rapid socio-economic decline of thousands of households in the region.
Nicholas Rosellini, deputy assistant administrator and deputy regional director, UNDP regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific, said: "The study clearly demonstrates the severity of the impact of HIV on households and the need for sustainable impact mitigation steps, ideally integrated into the social protection schemes targeted at vulnerable and marginalised populations."
Children in HIV-affected households in China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam were less likely to attend school than those from non-HIV-affected households, the study found.
Children from the poorest households, as well as girls, suffer more. Girls fare particularly badly in terms of school drop-outs as well.
Within households of people living with HIV, the impact on women is considerably higher -- taking care of the ill at home and working outside the house to earn extra income needed to cope with the economic burdens of HIV.
In all the countries surveyed, HIV-affected households extinguish their savings and liquidate assets far more commonly than non-HIV-affected households, particularly in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, and India.
While most households end up in debt, many also find borrowing difficult, forcing them to borrow from money-lenders at higher interest rates that trap them in debt.
Clifton Cortez, regional practice leader for HIV, health, and development, said: "The answer lies in HIV-sensitive social protection. It`s a question of tailoring social protection initiatives to address the socio-economic vulnerability of HIV households."
The report was based on national studies undertaken by UNDP in partnership with national institutions in Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam over the last six years.
Studies compared HIV-affected and non-HIV-affected households with similar socio-economic backgrounds, comprising 17,000 households and 72,000 individuals.