Ukraine has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV infection in Europe. The highest incidence of the disease is among young, working age people, potentially the most productive sections of the population. Awareness levels are relatively low. Only an estimated 47 per cent of people living with HIV know their status and the frequency of HIV testing is particularly poor among key, high risk populations.
When I talk about schools and hospitals in the fight against poverty and inequality, people generally nod in agreement. They may have different ideas about how they should be run and paid for, but we agree on the power of health and the power of education.
But when we talk about social protection there is much greater confusion: confusion created by competing political ideologies, differing economic demands, by misunderstanding about what it is, what it can do and who should be driving it.
When I was young, I lived in my village in Pakistan with my father, mother, three brothers and four sisters. My father was a carpenter and he worked hard to build a bright future for his family, but his income was too low to make this possible.
So, in 2001, when I was just ten, my parents sent me far away, to my maternal uncle’s workshop in the village of Bhagwal Awan, in the district of Sialkot, to make surgical instruments. I didn’t want to go, I wanted to stay in school and study, but I had no choice.