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The Philippines: 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

Two HIV/AIDS cases were first recorded in the Philippines in 1984. According to the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health (DOH), the total number of HIV/AIDS cases over 26 years is 4,424; 3,592 are asymptomatic and 832 are AIDS cases. However, in 2008 UNAIDS estimated a higher number of cases at 8,300. A recent article in the Journal of the International AIDS Society warns that while the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been characterized as "low and slow," given the country's conservative culture, high circumcision rates, and low injection drug use, contrasting factors suggest that the epidemic will soon increase, given the low rates of condom usage, increasing sexual activity, the return of Filipino migrant workers from high prevalence settings, and misconceptions and lack of education regarding HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted.

In December 2009, 125 new HIV cases were confirmed by the DOH, a staggering 232% increase compared to the same period last year (n=38 in 2008). Seventy-three percent of HIV-positive individuals are male, and sexual contact accounts for 90% of HIV transmission. The infections are concentrated among sexual workers, MSM, IDUs, and overseas contract workers.

Current trends in Philippine HIV infection are shifting to MSM and younger populations; the age range associated with the most infections has shifted from 30 to 39 years of age to 20 to 29 years of age. Infection through homosexual contact increased from 40% in 2008 to almost 70% in 2009.

The Housing Crisis

Metropolitan Manila, the main urban center of the Philippines, is composed of 15 cities and reflects the national housing situation. As in some developing countries, Metropolitan Manila as an urban center is sprawling with pockets of residential and slum communities interspersed with commercial and business districts. According to the United Nations, 11.4 million (20%) of the national urban population of 57 million (64%) is in Metropolitan Manila, and 16.5 million (30%) of that urban population are said to be living in slums. Sixty-five percent of the country's population is urbanized with a slum to urban population rate of 44%.

According to the 2005-2010 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), the country's housing backlog is at 946,466 units, while the housing need is at 3.76 million units. The government's goal is to provide 1.2 million units of housing, which only represents 30% of the total housing need. Meanwhile at least 21,047 families living in waterways are due for relocation. Many causes are associated with the housing shortage, including rapid urbanization and rising urban poverty; high cost of land and building materials; poor implementation of existing policy; and lack of government funds and capacity.

No existing studies document the housing situation or even the socioeconomic status of PLWHA in the Philippines. A community survey conducted among 54 PLWHA found that 64% either rent their homes or live with family and friends, while more than half of the respondents were unemployed and living below the poverty line. In the current economic climate, coupled with the debilitating effects of the disease, acquiring adequate employment to support the basic needs of shelter, food, and medicine is difficult, and many resort to staying with relatives or constructing makeshift shelters in squatter communities.

Institutional Response & Solutions

The main focus of the government is to partner with the private sector to provide the poor with shelter, while HIV/AIDS prevention focuses primarily on awareness-raising, treatment, care, and support. While there are a myriad of government agencies and civil society organizations addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic or the housing crisis, no organization addresses the housing needs of disadvantaged groups such as the elderly, disabled, or PLWHA.

Slum conditions in Manila. The house of a Pinoy Plus member, an association of HIV-positive individuals.

Left: Slum conditions in Manila. Above: The house of a Pinoy Plus member, an association of HIV-positive individuals.

Landmark legislation advocated by civil society organizations to ensure housing for the poor and HIV/AIDS prevention provide a supportive policy environment to address these two issues. These laws are the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 for socialized housing and the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 for HIV/AIDS prevention. However, there is still a long way to go in addressing housing for PLWHA. Currently no urgency exists surrounding the issue, but with the alarming increase of cases in the Philippines, housing stability will become a big concern down the road. According to the Partnership of Philippine Support Services Agencies, "... the affected sectors should actively be involved with organizing communities to advocate for policy changes and developing government programs that address the problem or pilot possible interventions."

Advocate testimony provided by Nicasio de Rosas of the Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies and TLF Share Collective. Photos provided by Nicasio de Rosas and the John J. Carrol Institute on Church and Social issues.


Farr, Anna C. and David P. Wilson, An HIV Epidemic is Ready to Emerge in the Philippines, Journal of the International AIDS Society: 13(16), 2010.

Karaos, Anna Marie and Gerald Nicolas, Overview of the General Situation in the Philippines, SALINDIWA, PHILSSA, 2008.

National Economic and Development Authority, Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, 2009.

UN-Habitat, Country Programme Document: Philippines, 2008-2009.

WHO, UNAIDS & UNICEF, Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV/AIDS, Philippines, 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 the Philippines and HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: miguel (dubai) Tue., May. 28, 2013 at 1:38 am UTC
im a hiv infected and i wait for my deportation to philippines i just want to ask where should i go if i in the philippines ?we have orphan or home for the hiv infected??
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Comment by: Nenet L. ortega (Metro Manila Philippines) Sat., Mar. 10, 2012 at 10:54 am UTC
I had been working with a group of Filipinos living with HIV and AIDS. Total memebrship of the organization is 130. An approximate 75% of them do not own a house, a meager 10% had been driven away by their families thus living in urban slum areas, while the remaining 15% are either living with distant relatives who do not know their HIV status, living with friends, and staying in hospice care of faith based groups.

I recommend that an in depth study on the current conditions, needs, gaps and challenges of housing for PLHAs in the country should be done soonest. There is an urgency to do it soonest as the current statistics of HIV cases shows a repid increase in number.

We as a community of people living with HIV and AIDS is more than willing to work with a partner to assist us on addressing this emerging problem of housing.
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