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Santiago de Cali, Colombia: Housing for People Living With HIV/AIDS

Part of the "More Than Just a Roof Over My Head" Booklet

July 2010

The HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Around 6,000 total HIV infections have been reported in Santiago de Cali, Colombia's third largest city. HIV prevalence in Cali is 0.07%; the epidemic is generalized with infections reported among pregnant women, sex workers, sexually transmitted infection (STI) patients, prisoners, and victims of sexual violence. The highest rate of infection is among people 25 to 39 years of age, and the infection rate is growing among women as heterosexual transmission increases. No HIV data exist for indigenous populations. A study published in 2008 of 143 HIV-positive patients in a hospital in Cali indicates a 22% prevalence of mental illness among the sample.

The Housing Crisis

The Municipality of Cali identified a housing deficit of approximately 67,000 units in 2000, and anecdotal data demonstrate that many people live in inadequate or unsafe conditions. The major issues are in housing mobile populations or those displaced by internal violence; 4.6 million Colombians have been displaced by internal violence since the early 1980s, surpassing the Sudan as the country with the largest displacement crisis. About 80% of displaced individuals seek refuge in urban areas and often end up in informal settlements lacking basic services. Approximately 45% of the Colombian population as a whole lives in unhealthy housing, and data show that by the end of the 1990s Colombia had a total housing deficit of in the range of 41% to 52% of total housing units.

Colombian women are particularly vulnerable to issues of housing instability. In Colombia housing ownership is 15% higher for men than women, and 65% of the households headed by women fall under the poverty line. Poor women with HIV/AIDS living in unstable housing face barriers in obtaining sufficient resources to successfully adhere to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Institutional Response & Solutions

In October 2000, the Municipality of Cali identified regularization of land tenure as a priority in its Municipal Development Plan. The goal of the project, in cooperation with the Cities Alliance, World Bank, and UN-Habitat, is to integrate informal settlements into the formal urban structure through slum upgrading programs. The project aims to regularize land tenure for 6,000 slum dwellers and to begin upgrading activities in addition to supporting the Municipality of Cali in promoting land tenure regularization. While the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development has a program called Healthy Housing to promote sanitation services and installation, neither the Municipality of Cali nor the Ministry have recognized the particular vulnerabilities and housing needs of PLWHA.

The Latin American Network of PLWHA (Redla+) helps people to defend their housing rights and quality of life, but one advocate from Cali believes that the government must develop the political will to create housing laws specifically for PLWHA: "There is a lack of diagnosis and acknowledgement."

Advocate testimony was provided by Oswaldo Rada of the Latin American Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (RedLA+) and the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+.)


Castillo, Alejandro et. al., Psychosocial and Clinical Characteristics and Psychiatric Co-morbidity Among Men and Women with HIV/AIDS under Medical Treatment at a Tertiary Health Care Center in Cali, Colombia, Revista Colombiana de Psiquiatria: 37(1), 2008.

Clavijo, Sergio et. al. (IADB), The Housing Market in Colombia: Socioeconomic and Financial Determinants, 2005.

Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network, ABC (Abstain, Be Faithful, Use a Condom): Does the message work? Women's Health Journal, 2006.

UN-Habitat Colombia, Slum Upgrading and Land Tenure Regularization, 2010.

Wilson, Maya (Council on Hemispheric Affairs), Colombia: Latin America's, if not the World's, Capital of Internally Displaced People, 2010.

WHO, UNAIDS & UNICEF, Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV and AIDS: Core Data on Epidemiology and Response, Colombia, 2008.

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This article was provided by National AIDS Housing Coalition. Visit NAHC's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
More on HIV in Other South American Countries

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