Building 'Positive' Spaces: Sustainable Human Settlements in a Context of HIV/AIDS

Stacey-Leigh Joseph, Mirjam van Donk

Joseph, S. L. and van Donk, M. (2008). Building 'Positive' Spaces: Sustainable Human Settlements in a Context of HIV/AIDS. Open House International Vol. 33 (4). Available here.


A key development in South Africa's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been the recognition that there are a number of external factors in the socio-economic and physical environment in which people live that are central to the spread of the epidemic. A growing body of evidence suggests that poverty, inequality, inadequate shelter, overcrowding and other symptoms of underdevelopment are fundamental drivers in undermining people's ability to practice and negotiate safe sex, thereby enhancing vulnerability to HIV infection. Similarly, these factors affect the ability of individuals, households and communities to cope with the subsequent health and socio-economic effects of infection. In a context where large numbers of South Africans live in poverty, without adequate shelter and access to basic resources and services, HIV/AIDS will thus have far reaching and serious impacts, not only on citizens and communities but also for and on the state. The South African government has shifted its approach to housing development from the provision of housing to a sustainable human settlements approach, as encapsulated in its 2004 development plan 'Breaking New Ground'. This paper explores the conceptual and theoretical links between this sustainable human settlements agenda and HIV/AIDS. argues that the creation of sustainable and integrated human settlements is potentially a crucial component in the response to HIV/AIDS. However, this can only be achieved if HIV/AIDS becomes an explicit component of sustainable human settlements planning, development and management. In light of this, the paper discusses key characteristics of integrated, sustainable human settlements and reviews the current instruments for the implementation of a sustainable settlement agenda in South Africa in relation to the dynamics and implications of HIV/AIDS both for the South African state and its people. The paper concludes with a set of policy recommendations to make HIV/AIDS an integral component of the sustainable human settlements agenda.

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