Emergencies often create new threats and vulnerabilities (e.g. gender-based violence), as families are displaced or faced with disasters or conflict in their communities. Emergencies can also worsen existing vulnerabilities, with particular groups, including people living with HIV/AIDS, adolescent girls, and orphan-headed households disproportionately affected and increasingly isolated or discriminated against during and after an emergency. Unless adequate measures are taken, HIV transmission may increase during post-emergency, recovery and reconstruction periods, as a result of increased mobility and population interaction, including between rural and urban areas.
Therefore, just as in development contexts, multiple approaches are needed to respond to HIV and AIDS in emergencies. These approaches combine: behavioural strategies to reduce HIV transmission; legislative measures for ensuring policies free of discrimination; structural, or contextual measures that impede or facilitate HIV transmission, such as social vulnerabilities (e.g. poverty, gender-based violence); and biomedical measures including access to treatment, care and support. Such combined measures help to reduce immediate risk, change underlying social dynamics that make people vulnerable to HIV, and better respond to the needs of people living with HIV. HIV in emergencies contributes to the goal of Universal Access. HIV/AIDS has therefore been identified as a multisectoral, cross cutting issue within humanitarian responses.
In emergency contexts, UNICEF support encompasses PMTCT, paediatric ART, provision of related training, and supply of post-rape care supplies and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PEP). Through protection efforts targeting emergency-affected children and adolescents, separated and unaccompanied children, and children associated with armed groups or forces, UNICEF addresses a number of HIV-related concerns and vulnerabilities outside of traditional health sector programming. In education, UNICEF supports prevention through HIV-related life skills-based education, and protection and care through adolescent-friendly spaces and access to services. At the global level, UNICEF is a key partner in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Force on HIV in humanitarian settings.
The revised UNICEF Core Commitments to Children and the revised IASC Guidelines on Addressing HIV in Humanitarian Settings provide guidance on what UNICEF is obligated to provide in order to ensure a multisectoral response to HIV/AIDS in humanitarian settings.