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World AIDS Day

December 1 marks World AIDS Day which raises awareness across the world about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS.

In 2016 alone, 36.7 million people were living with HIV and 1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses.

This year’s theme ‘Let’s End It’ aims to end the negative impact of HIV/AIDS globally. This means ending the stigma, ending HIV transmission and ending the isolation experienced by people living with HIV. For many, discrimination still plays a role in limiting the opportunities of people with HIV/AIDS, preventing them from living full and happy lives.

Housing, however can play a catalytic role in turning lives around in developing communities. Individuals with HIV/AIDS who lack access to safe and secure housing are more likely to delay medical care, have poorer access to regular care, and are less likely to maintain their treatment. That’s why, as part of our New Start, New Life Project, we are working with households living with or affected by HIV/AIDS to build safe, decent homes.

In Cambodia, there are over 70,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and many face daily challenges around accessing housing and basic services.

HIV/AIDS is deeply stigmatised in Cambodia and affected families also experience discrimination and isolation from the community.

This year, we worked with 41 vulnerable families in Cambodia, including those living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS, the elderly and child-headed households, to provide access to safe and decent homes.

This includes Sophat and her husband, Sokhorn who are both HIV positive. Faced with the social stigma that comes with their illness and earning unsteady incomes, they were unable to afford land to build a home. Instead, the family rented a room in a slum. Each month, income from Sokorn’s job as a construction worker and Sophat’s odd jobs went toward paying expensive rent and private utilities demanded by the slum lords.

“Before moving here, we were so depressed, as we could not earn enough to pay for food, rent and support Sela, our son. However, after building our new home with Habitat, our lives have completely changed. We do not have to worry about finding money for rent and even food expenses anymore. With our own land, we can plant vegetables, raise chickens and sometimes catch fish from the nearby ponds,” said Sophat.

Through this program, 56 family representatives also attended livelihood trainings to improve their income earning capacity. Sokhorn received training on chicken rearing to supplement the family’s income and along with 40 other families, received a micro-business grant to grow their home enterprise.

Help raise awareness this World AIDS Day and give affected families the chance to build a brighter future for themselves.

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