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Migration, access to ART, and survivalist livelihood strategies in Johannesburg

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Since the end of apartheid, patterns of migration into South Africa have shifted, and South Africa has become a destination for people from across the African continent and beyond — a small but important number of whom are refugees and asylum seekers. While South Africa has a protective, integrative, urban refugee policy, many of these individuals struggle to access the rights to which they are entitled, including healthcare. In addition, many lower-skilled international migrants are unable to legalise their stay in South Africa. As a result, international migrants often become part of the group of 'urban poor,' falling within the periphery of health and social welfare provision and relying on a survivalist livelihood within the informal economy. The health and wellbeing of an individual impact greatly on their ability to maintain a secure livelihood, and this becomes more difficult in the context of an HIV epidemic. This paper presents findings from a case study situated in the City of Johannesburg. The research made use of 1) 2006 survey data on migrant livelihood strategies in Johannesburg, 2) a study investigating non-citizens' access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the inner city, which included 3) a set of interviews conducted with migrant ART clients who were working in the city's informal economy. The findings indicate (a) the importance of the informal economy for migrants to Johannesburg; (b) the challenges that non-citizens face in accessing ART in the public sector in South Africa; and (c) the linkages between urban migrants' access to ART and their ability to maintain a survivalist livelihood. The paper argues that upholding people's right to ART for all who need it within South Africa will enable international migrants (including refugees and asylum seekers) to maintain an otherwise fragile survivalist livelihood, and this in turn will assist their self-reliance and integration into urban life. Recommendations are made to ensure that the right to healthcare is upheld for all in South Africa.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-11-01

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