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HOMELESSNESS AND HIV/AIDS IN JOHANNESBURG

Abstract
By : Olusola Olufemi

 
This paper contends that the peculiar, chronic, itinerant lifestyles and precarious spaces occupied by the homeless enhance their risk and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. These spaces, including the streets, shacks and cardboard boxes, mine dumps and unorganised shelters, expose them to indecent lifestyles, poor choices and greater risk of HIV, as well as Tuberculosis (TB) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). This study was conducted amongst street homeless people, shack and hostel dwellers in informal settlements in various locations in Johannesburg. Inferences were drawn from the personal experiences of homeless people, and inputs from individuals and organisations that are engaged and work in the field of homelessness. Types of dwellings, overcrowding, livelihoods, knowledge of HIV/AIDS and survival sex are among the issues examined. Preliminary findings indicate that, firstly, poverty is a leading cause of precarious housing among the homeless. Secondly, behavioural practices, especially survival sex, make homeless people vulnerable to HIV. As a result, there is an increase in mortality rates from both HIV and AIDS amongst this group of people. Thirdly, the difficulties homeless people experience in gaining access to water, sanitation and health care services also compromises the care of those who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Finally, other barriers to care and determinants of vulnerability to HIV/AIDS are the lack of knowledge, judgemental attitudes of the care providers overcrowding and lack of adequate nutrition amongst the homeless.
Keywords : Homelessness, HIV/AIDS, Precarious Spaces, Vulnerability, South Africa.

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