HIC and the World AIDS Day (Dec.1st)


In sub-Saharan Africa, 72 percent of urban residents – some 187 million people – live in slums. To compound the problem, overcrowding in informal settlements increases the risk of opportunistic infection for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Rooftops Canada technical assistants and interns are helping our partners develop programs and work on strategies to respond to the AIDS crisis as it relates to human settlements. Here’s the voice of Roxanne Ali, a Rooftops Canada intern placed with Shelter and Settlements Alternatives (SSA), in Kampala, Uganda:

“When I arrived in Africa, I didn’t know what the face of HIV and AIDS looked like. I had read about the epidemic in newspapers, books and magazines, and had watched documentaries and news reports on television, but had never met anyone living with HIV or directly affected by AIDS. My perception of the state of HIV and AIDS in Africa was based on media images of death, sadness and despair. Then I was introduced to “Anne,” a thirty- year- old woman with glowing skin and a radiant smile. I would have never guessed she was “sick.” Now, if you ask me what the face of HIV and AIDS in Uganda looks like, I answer “anyone.”

I learned through a visit to the AIDS Support Organization that all of their 18,000 registered clients are HIV positive, and over 60 percent are women. Only 1,800 take anti-retroviral drugs and the majority live in slums and have limited access to food and clean water. With this reality in mind, SSA is advocating with key stakeholders to focus attention on the role of housing in the fight against HIV and AIDS.“

We are proud to be able to work with SSA to help ensure that issues related to housing are front and centre in the efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

In Yaoundé, Cameroon, Rooftops Canada Intern Veronique Charette is working with our partner and HIC Member the Coalition des ONG et OCB du Cameroun oeuvrant dans le Domaine des Établissements Humains (CONGEH) on its Gender, HIV and AIDS (GSH) and Habitat program. Veronique is helping to address the feminization of HIV and AIDS and the effect of the epidemic on youth, and to promote dialogue and voluntary testing. She is also helping to integrate the GSH “speaking tree” concept as a cross-cutting theme in all of CONGEH’s work. The “speaking tree” provides a forum for communities to get together, talk about issues that affect their everyday lives and come up with solutions. This year in the week leading up to World AIDS Day, the CONGEH team is conducting a series of educational talks on health and voluntary testing.

Juanita Smith, a Rooftops Canada Technical Assistant, has worked with many of our partners on HIV and AIDS, most recently with YUVA in India. She says:

“World AIDS DAY is a time for us to reflect on the many individuals, families and communities impacted by HIV and AIDS here in Canada and around the world and to identify how we can contribute in our own unique way. Even if we don’t have years of experience in HIV and AIDS, we have the capacity to be open, to trust and to embrace. On this World AIDS Day, I ask you to consider how these qualities can help people who are at risk, are living with HIV or who have AIDS. As the YUVA staff say, “Discrimination kills people living with HIV/AIDS faster than the disease itself.”

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