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News and Resources

The Intersections Between Housing and HIV: Reflections from San Patten

News and Resources


Rooftops Canada, Technical Advisor

The Regional Workshop on HIV, AIDS and Housing in Nairobi, Kenya took place from the 23rd to the 27th of February, 2009. The workshop, organised by Rooftops Canada and its partner the Mazingira Institute/ Settlement Information Network Africa, was a huge success. The five-day event followed a six country assessment of Rooftops Canada and its partners’ work on HIV and AIDS. Participants reflected on assessment outcomes, strategized on ways forward and built skills and capacity in mainstreaming HIV and AIDS.
For the last ten years, my work has focused on developing HIV programs and policies which are grounded in the social determinants of health framework. But my first opportunity to work on a project which directly addresses HIV in the context of housing arose when I joined the Rooftops Canada advisory group on HIV, AIDS and housing. Being part of the advisory group with others who understand international housing and HIV and AIDS issues was a rewarding learning experience.
I was pleased to go on a Technical Assistance mission to support the Regional Workshop on HIV, AIDS and Housing in Nairobi, Kenya. The two workshops I facilitated focused on the capacity building needs identified as priorities in the project’s assessment phase: planning, monitoring and evaluation; and inclusion of vulnerable groups – women, youth, and people living with HIV and AIDS. During the workshop 28 participants from 11 countries recounted incredible stories about the social and economic challenges they face. It was inspiring to hear about the practical ways in which organizations are working to address HIV and AIDS in the context of housing initiatives. I enjoyed working with local experts to devise ways to better assess the achievement of their HIV, AIDS and housing program goals.
A highlight of the week was the site visit to the Marura housing co-operative in Kariobangi, Nairobi which works with youth, and children orphaned due to HIV and AIDS. Very difficult living conditions are the daily reality for residents of these informal human settlements, and I was able to see first-hand how HIV is exacerbated by poor living conditions. There are many links between HIV and AIDS and inadequate housing. Families affected by HIV can’t afford to pay rent or repay their loans because of medical bills. People with HIV become ill and die of AIDS more quickly because of overcrowding, lack of sanitation and clean drinking water. Lack of privacy, means that children are exposed to sexual activity, including prostitution, at a young age. And the most vulnerable – widows and orphans – lose their homes and properties because they lack inheritance rights.
I am grateful to Rooftops Canada for providing me with a wonderful opportunity and I will continue to share the stories within my own personal and professional networks.