Housing as Healthcare
Abstract Format : The relationship between housing and HIV infection is bi-causal and complex. On the one hand, poor housing arrangements may expose Persons Living with HIV/AIDs (PLWHAs) to opportunistic infections and increase their morbidity and mortality risks. On the other hand, PLWHAs may be more likely to live in sub-standard homes, mainly because of their health conditions, lack of employment and HIV-related stigma. While previous research found support for the former argument, there is a dearth of research for the latter, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. More importantly, the majority of studies examining the housing and health nexus relied on survey methods with limited focus on context and the experiences of PLWHAs. This study re-examined the housing and health debate by filling these important research gaps.
Methods : The study used qualitative in-depth interviews collected from 38 PLWHAs attending Voluntary and Counseling services at the Atua Government and St. Martin’s de Pores hospitals in the Lower Manya Krobo District (LMKD) of the Eastern region of Ghana. The data were part of a bigger project employing both qualitative and quantitative techniques to explore the housing conditions of PLWHAs in Ghana. PLWHAs between the ages of 18 and 68 years were randomly selected and interviewed face-to-face. We used a general inductive approach (GIA) to our data analysis. This approach required us to condense data, establish links between our research objectives and textual data, generate themes and ideas from the data and identify housing experiences from the raw data.
Results : Results from the study showed that the majority of PLWHAs lived in homes that lacked basic amenities, were overcrowded, had structural deficiencies, were noisy, dirty etc. PLWHAs lived in poor housing conditions mainly because of their HIV serostatus; this affected their employability and ability to finance adequate homes. HIV-related stigma often led to the forceful eviction from both family and rented homes. In some cases, PLWHAs were forced to change and relocate from relatively adequate homes to inadequate and deficient homes mainly due to self-perceived stigma. There was also evidence to demonstrate that living in these homes affected the health of PLWHAs negatively.
Conclusions : The findings are relevant for both researchers and policy makers. It is important for researchers to continue exploring relationships between housing and health for PLWHAs given the dearth of research in sub-Saharan Africa. Policy makers should consider housing as relevant to improving the health of PLWHAs.