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News and Resources

Overcoming barriers: Adequate housing responds to HIV and AIDS

News and Resources
By Rooftops Canada

What comes to mind when you imagine your dream home? Walk-in closets, a double car garage, and stainless steel kitchen appliances? Well, in the dreams of women living with HIV in the slums of Kampala, the ideal home has none of these. Rather, they dream of their own latrine, a yard to raise some chickens, a water tap and a garden.

San Patten, a Rooftops Canada volunteer technical advisor, was recently in Uganda working with our partner Shelter and Settlements Alternatives (SSA), to help them move their HIV mainstreaming efforts from principles to practice. She met with 20 women living with HIV in Kisenyi, one of Kampala’s largest slums.
The women want their homes to include not only physical comforts, but also features that help earn a little bit of money. A food garden, space for livestock, or a room to rent with sanitation, and water make a big difference. Unfortunately, these ideals stand in contrast to their current living conditions. Their houses are little more than shacks without sanitation, or an adequate water supply. There is hunger and overcrowding. Cultural norms and traditions, make it difficult for women to own, control or inherit land. There is little protection from HIV-related stigma and discrimination. SSA is working to develop and influence policies that improve conditions in slums and informal settlements, particularly families impacted by HIV and AIDS.
1.6 billion people – 25% of the world’s population – live in slums. HIV prevalence in urban areas is 1.7 times that in rural areas. Conditions in urban informal settlements will continue to pose challenges to treatment, support and care of those affected by HIV and AIDS.
Marie, is a member of CONGEH, our partner in Cameroon, where 2/3rds of the urban population lives in slums. Marie has been hospitalized due to HIV-related complications and cannot work. She has been unable to pay rent for seven months and is threatened with eviction. CONGEH has provided her with an interest free loan to help get her back on her feet. Michèle Blanchard, also a volunteer technical advisor is helping CONGEH strengthen their HIV mainstreaming program so that more support can be offered to people like Marie.
December 1 2009 is World AIDS Day. Rooftops Canada will continue both to highlight the links between housing conditions and HIV risk and to support programs that integrate responses to HIV and AIDS in our partners housing and human settlements work.