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News and Resources

Housing-based responses to HIV and AIDS

News and Resources
What do housing-based responses to HIV and AIDS really mean to Rooftops Canada’s partner organizations in Africa? In Kenya, it involves training housing co-op leaders and youth as peer educators to reduce stigma and undertake community based programs for shelter, nutrition and care. In Zimbabwe, it means helping affected women develop urban gardens and processing some of the produce for sale. In Uganda, it means bringing AIDS service organizations and housing groups together to provide the care and services so desperately needed in slum conditions. In Tanzania, it means advocating for women’s rights to inherit housing and land.
In Cameroon, CONGEH has developed small local community centres which promote dialogue on gender, HIV and habitat issues. Rooftops Canada interns with CONGEH, Sarah Pelletier De Rico and Chantal Cardinal recently hosted a Canadian dinner with ten young people at Tropifco, a youth-based social space. Sarah says, “While enjoying a typical Canadian meal, we were all able to appreciate the differences between Canadian and Cameroonian perceptions on HIV/AIDS. We listened to HIV/AIDS positive people speak about living with the disease, the stigma and discrimination they face and ways to support them. We realized that living with the disease in Cameroon or in Canada also has its similarities”. Chantal explained, “We showed a Canadian film on prevention methods which focused on condom use. This provoked a debate on abstinence, the favoured discourse on prevention in Cameroon as in many African countries. Although abstinence is the safest option to avoid sexually transmitted infections or diseases, the reality remains that young people will still engage in sexual behaviors. It becomes important to increase awareness so that communities, particularly youth, make informed choices”.
World AIDS Day (December 1st) is about increasing awareness, education and fighting prejudice. It reminds people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done. This is an enormous challenge, when you live in a slum with little water, poor sanitation and are saving to build a better home - your dream home.  
At Rooftops Canada we strongly believe that housing is health and improved housing helps families and communities respond better to the AIDS crisis.  ‘Responding’ means: to enhance understanding, confront differences of opinion, and provoke reflection and action, while adapting the discussions to the local realities and beliefs in order to achieve better and more efficient outcomes. And taking concrete steps to contribute to the global task of improving the lives of the approximately 1 billion slum dwellers.