HIV/AIDS in the City

The HIV/AIDS in the City programme seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the factors in particular urban localities, specifically urban informal settlements that contribute to the spread of HIV and that influence the coping capabilities of individuals, communities and local government institutions when affected by HIV/AIDS. Poverty, inequality, inadequate shelter, overcrowding and other symptoms of underdevelopment are fundamental drivers in increasing the risk of HIV infection. These factors also affect the ability of individuals, households and communities to cope with the subsequent health and socio-economic effects of infection.

The notion of sustainable and integrated human settlements provides a useful lens to further unpack the developmental dimensions and implications of HIV/AIDS, and to strategically locate HIV/AIDS responses at the centre of development. Because of its mandate and responsibilities to provide democratic and accountable government, ensure sustainable service provision, promote social and economic development, promote a safe and healthy environment and enhance community involvement local government is a key role player. Local government is also responsible for overcoming and addressing the fragmented and divided apartheid city by contributing to the development of sustainable and integrated human settlements.


  • To engage in policy research and advocacy to ensure an effective response to HIV/AIDS in urban planning and development that engages with the developmental dimensions of the epidemic;
  • To support local government in mainstreaming HIV/AIDS, with particular reference to sustainable human settlements planning, development and management;
  • To facilitate and maintain networks and partnerships with relevant organisations and individuals;
  • To raise awareness on the developmental dimensions and implications of HIV/AIDS among urban planning professionals and the general public.


The HIV/AIDS in the City programme has just completed a project with the Housing and Land Department of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in the Eastern Cape. The project was aimed at using the Isandla Institute Guide on HIV/AIDS and Sustainable Human Settlements to assist officials in the Housing and Land Department to understand the links between HIV/AIDS and people's living conditions. It also explored the extent to which the upgrading of informal settlements can have an ameliorative impact on HIV/AIDS.

Isandla Institute is available to assist local, provincial and national departments to develop policy on HIV/AIDS and human settlements. Workshops and stakeholder dialogues are also available on request.


  • Coming to grips with informality and HIV/AIDS through innovative settlement planning and design. On 12-13 May 2010 Isandla Institute hosted a very successful seminar that profiled innovative initiatives in settlement planning and design which seek to respond to the current development imperatives in South Africa. The seminar was also the occasion for an introduction to the findings of a recent pilot project in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which combined a visioning/scenarios exercise with an assessment of the metro's current human settlements response. The seminar brought together policy makers and built environment practitioners, both within government and the private sector, to share innovation and lessons around settlement planning and development. This included site visits to two innovative settlement development programmes in Cape Town (Urban Matters in Phillipi and the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Programme in Khayelitsha). A seminar report is available.
  • HIV/AIDS and Local Government Learning Network. Isandla Institute is the current secretariat for this network which was initiated in 2006. Over the past two years Halogen has developed a number of municipal briefs aimed at assisting municipalities to respond to HIV/AIDS at the local level. All municipal briefs as well as presentations and annual reports of Halogen activities area available at For more information on Halogen contact Isandla Institute on +27 21 683 7903.
  • PoCityVity+: A story of survival and belonging was developed in 2008 and is aimed at contributing to a better understanding of specific factors in particular urban localities that contribute to (or possibly hinder) the spread of HIV and that influence the coping capabilities of individuals, households, communities and institutions (including the developmental state) when affected by HIV/AIDS. The documentary is used as an audiovisual tool to support Isandla Institute's research and advocacy work on the link between HIV/AIDS and people's livelihoods and living conditions.

    Comment from audience member at the launch of PoCityVity+: "The movie communicated the message very clearly that the 'ABC' message alone is not enough to tackle HIV/AIDS. We have to improve the quality of people's living environments first and foremost" – City of Cape Town Environmental Health Official.
  • HIV/AIDS and Sustainable Human Settlements Development in South Africa: An Introductory Guide for Municipal Practitioners is resource guide designed to provide practical guidance primarily to municipal practitioners and policy-makers on how an effective response to HIV/AIDS can be integrated into housing and human settlements development processes within their municipalities. As such, it encourages those who would not ordinarily have much engagement with HIV/AIDS in their day-to-day jobs to see HIV/AIDS as a developmental issue and not merely as a health concern.
  • Building 'Positive' Spaces - Sustainable Human Settlements Development in a Context of HIV/AIDS is a concept paper that focuses on the links between HIV/AIDS and human settlement planning, development and implementation. One of the key findings in the concept paper is that poor, marginalised South Africans, particularly those in informal settlements, are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection and often lack the resources and supportive infrastructure to cope with the consequences of HIV/AIDS. The paper concludes that the development and implementation of a sustainable and integrated human settlements agenda is thus critical in responding to HIV/AIDS and its consequences.
  • 'Positive' Spaces: Sustainable Human Settlements Development in the Context of HIV/AIDS was a national seminar and learning event hosted on 18 and 19 September 2007. The Concept paper and Guide were presented at this event which was co-hosted with the South African Cities Network (SACN) and attended by representatives from national, provincial and local government, civil society organisations, social movements and the planning community.
  • Building Sustainable Communities is central in the response to HIV/AIDS is a poster depicting a graphic illustration of Isandla Institute's approach to HIV/AIDS and human settlements.
  • Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS: A Case Study of Cape Town. This case study provides an assessment of the City of Cape Town's response to HIV/AIDS since 2000. A key finding of the assessment is that, even in a City that ostensibly has one of the most developed responses to HIV/AIDS compared to other cities in South Africa, the conceptualisation of HIV/AIDS as a development issue remains very weak. Few sectors are able to directly relate HIV/AIDS to their core business. Instead, where sectors are involved in HIV/AIDS-related activities, these tend to be limited to awareness raising and health-related interventions. An executive summary of the research is also available online.
Isandla Institute Tel: +27 21 683 7903 Fax: +27 21 683 7956
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