Belize: Housing for People Living With HIV/AIDS
Part of the "More Than Just a Roof Over My Head" Booklet
The HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Estimates for the number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Belize range from 2,200 to 5,300. The 365 new HIV cases in 2009 represent a 14.1% decrease compared with 2008 (425 cases). However, the 92 new AIDS cases in 2009 represent a 21% increase compared to the 76 new AIDS cases in 2008. 51.5% of new HIV infections occurred in women in 2009. Belize has 11 treatment sites, one within the Belize Central Prison. About 61.3% of all people with advanced HIV infection are receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in 2009, an increase from 49% in 2008.
The Housing Crisis
Belize City suffers from old, insect-infected housing stock. Substandard housing has been erected in the slum areas surrounding the capital city. Because Belize City and most of the coastline have been built on swampland, affordable housing has been both an economic and technical challenge. In rural areas, many villages suffer from inadequate housing and infrastructure. Immigrants from neighboring Central American countries live in substandard housing on the outskirts of cities and towns. The housing needs for PLWHA has never been officially acknowledged by either the housing or HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations.
Institutional Response & Solutions
While there is no government data on the need for adequate housing, the government has pledged to build 10,000 houses over a five-year period. The United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), which works to reduce stigma against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities and PLWHA through educational and media activities, advocacy, and HIV/AIDS prevention programs, has had homeless clients. One client became homeless after losing his job, where he had persistently been mistreated by fellow employees. Another client who approached UNIBAM was a homeless substance user with a physical disability. However, there was little UNIBAM could do but provide food, support, and information.
More research needs to be conducted in Belize regarding the housing needs of PLWHA, particularly for drug users, sexual minorities, people with disabilities, immigrants, and others vulnerable to stigma and discrimination in order to make the issue visible at the policy level. Belize has been recognized by UNAIDS for its progress in realizing its national commitments to HIV/AIDS and for its multi-sectoral response, which includes the Ministries of Labor, Youth and Education. Housing for PLWHA fits into Belize's national mitigation goals to improve integrated care, support, and treatment services and to improve policies and programs addressing the reduction of the socioeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS.
Advocate testimony provided by Caleb Orozco of the United Belize Advocacy Movement.
Habitat for Humanity Belize, 2002.
UNGASS Country Progress Report: Belize, 2010.
WHO, UNAIDS & UNICEF, Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV and AIDS: Core Data on Epidemiology and Response, Belize, 2008.
This article was provided by National AIDS Housing Coalition. Visit NAHC's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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