Accommodation woes persist for people living with HIV

People living with HIV (PLWHIV) in urban areas are appealing to the government to allocate them residential stands because they are being discriminated against by their landlords because of their HIV status, reports SOFIA MAPURANGA.

Budiriro Social Worker, Lois Mazikana.
Budiriro Social Worker, Lois Mazikana.

PLWHIV in suburbs such as Budiriro, Chitungwiza, Glen Norah, Mabvuku and Glen View told The Zimbabwean of some of the challenges they face at the hands of their landlords, some of whom even give them timetables to use the toilet.

“I am not allowed to use the toilet any time that I want because my landlord believes that because of the water challenges, I may not be able to perfectly clean the toilet,” said Getrude Mukanga from Chitungwiza.

“She prefers that I use the toilet first thing in the morning and she ensures that I clean it thoroughly before she allows her family, especially her children, to use it.”

In December 2012 The National Aids Council reported that an estimated 1,2 million people were living with HIV. Zimbabwe is one of the few African countries that has over the years managed to reduce the HIV infection rate by 50%.

But PLWHIV face a myriad of challenges, including lack of access to quality and affordable treatment, social services, basic healthcare, education and other socio-economic rights.

Institutionalised stigma

Emmanuel Gasa, the Executive Director of The AIDS and Arts Foundation, said government should put up policies to guard against discrimination of PLWHIV. “The problem in Zimbabwe is that we now have institutionalised stigma and the systems are not conducive for those living positively,” said Gasa. “There should be cluster specific allocation of accommodation. We will take this with reservations because it can also be used by others to discriminate against people living with HIV,” he added.

He urged young people to open up and reveal their status as a way of dealing with stigma and discrimination saying such a move would ensure a responsible future generation who are able to stand up for what they represent.

Fair share

“In other countries such as South Africa, young people who are living with HIV are open and they get their fair share of resources based on their status,” he said, adding that poverty and discrimination of PLWHIV has remained a major challenge in Zimbabwe and lack of accommodation affected their well-being. The national housing backlog is estimated at 1,2 million applicants, a figure government says could soar if a proper survey was conducted.

Gasa urged government to come up with interventions and ensure that PLWHIV were allocated affordable residential stands. Trymore Chiswa, who resides in Glen Norah, said the discrimination suffered at the hands of her landlord is affecting her children who are restricted to their two rooms and are not allowed to interact with the landlord’s children. “The assumption is that my children are living with HIV because they are not allowed anywhere near my landlord’s children although as children, they would want to play together,” she said.


Chipo Vhiriri, 39 from Budiriro urged government to address accommodation challenges for PLWHIV saying that because the majority of them were living under difficult circumstances, they should be allocated affordable accommodation as stipulated in the new Constitution.

“Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo last year set up timelines and said he would avail residential stands for urbanites but to date, nothing has materialised,” she said.

No progress

“Government should seriously reconsider the plight of PLWHIV because we are sometimes forced to disclose our status because of the circumstances that we are living under, something which is being used against us in the long run.”

Chombo last year revealed that government had engaged a Chinese firm, Henan Guoji, to build 10,000 low-cost houses in a move aimed at curbing the scourge of homelessness in cities and towns. However, to date, there is no information regarding the progress of the project. Efforts to get a comment from Chombo were futile as his mobile was not answered. Chapter 28 of the Constitution obliges government to ensure the provision of adequate shelter to its citizens.

Mabvuku resident, Chanise Mhosva said she was not allowed to get water from the borehole sunk by her landlord. “The borehole is kept under lock and key and we are not allowed to get water from it. My landlord said she is not comfortable because she fears that she may contract diseases if we use the same well,” she said.

Lois Mazikana, a social worker in Budiriro said PLWHIV faced a lot of challenges and the majority of them were indirectly forced to disclose their status. “We have witnessed a lot of cases where people who are living with HIV are cornered to disclose their status. We offer them support on how they can best integrate into society, regardless of their circumstances,” said Mazikana.

She said PLWHIV need support and should not be discriminated against based on their status. “The majority of them cannot afford to own houses and they should be allocated affordable residential stands so that they are better positioned to lead decent lives,” she said.

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