By Surihe Gaomas
Most people living with HIV/AIDS continue to live without the basic human right of housing.
This finding is contained in the latest research study on “Housing Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS” that was launched by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) recently.
The main objective of the study was to look at the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in terms of adequate housing. The study further aimed at establishing the link between access to adequate housing, HIV/AIDS and successful treatment response.
It is stated that not all people living with HIV/AIDS have access to adequate housing who mostly reside in shacks made from corrugated zinc or shacks made from cardboard sheeting found in informal settlements.
“The most vulnerable groups are those who are poor and do not have the financial means to afford basic amenities such as housing,” reads the study coordinated by Amon Ngavetene of the AIDS Law Unit of the LAC.
It is further argued that HIV/AIDS has a tendency to push people into extreme poverty because in some cases, it leads to job losses because of stigmatising behaviour of employees and incapacitation due to illness.
Without life insurance, many people can succumb to extreme poverty and lose their assets such as housing.
“Those who were employed lost their jobs due to discrimination based on their HIV status and others due to fatigue and periodic hospitalization caused by HIV related illnesses. These people struggled because of the underlying factor of poverty due to lack of income,” states the study.
Against this background, civil society organizations such as the LAC have advocated the housing provision for people living with HIV/AIDS.
It was recommended that since the Ministry of Health and Social Services is experiencing overcrowded hospitals due to HIV/AIDS patients, it should consider advocating for housing rights for people living with HIV/AIDS or people suffering from chronic diseases.
Another setback in housing provision is that banks declare such people as not credit worthy, the main reason being that banks require collateral in order for individuals to qualify for credit facilities.
Therefore, unemployed people living with HIV/AIDS and those without houses to use as collateral do not have the opportunity to create self-employment and support themselves and their families.
It was noted that to date, Government has not enacted a policy that guarantees the right to adequate housing for people living with the disease. For instance, both the Ministry of Local Government and Housing and Health and Social Services have no policy on the provision of houses to such people.
The study reveals that people living with the virus are not supported as some individuals feel HIV/AIDS should be treated like any other chronic disease and such special treatment, it is believed, could lead to more stigmatization.
A solution to this problem is a more holistic national response that would improve the living conditions for people living with HIV/AIDS in support of current preventative and treatment campaigns being undertaken by Government.
The study, which was based on a qualitative analysis of the housing of people living with HIV/AIDS, was done in partnership with the Southern African Legal Assistance Network