a homeless woman is in the park

Homelessness and HIV

This article is based on my views as an advocate and people I have talked to who are living with HIV.

Over the years since I started advocating (almost 7 years ago), I have come to notice many things about a community of people who claim they care about people who are living with HIV. I am not speaking about community advocates.

I am speaking about our AIDS service organization (ASOs), health departments, and other larger organizations - those who get grants or funding on the backs of people who are living with HIV. Not just Ryan White funds or HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS) to help with housing, but funds that are given to do the work and support people who are living with HIV as well.

The need for stable housing

There are people I know personally who are living with HIV and they are homeless. Their state gets funding that is supposed to help with housing issues (such as HOPWA), medication assistance for those who do not have sufficient coverage in health care (ADAP), mental health, and other things that people need to take care of themselves.

Focus shifts from staying in treatment to housing

Once a person becomes homeless, that is a bigger issue because the focus will now be more on where a person will live rather than "I need to make my doctor's appointment to get my meds."

If a person doesn’t have their medication, then how can they stay healthy? No one can focus on medication when they must first figure out where they will sleep and what will they eat.

HIV and homelessness in US cities

Atlanta has one of the highest rates of HIV diagnosis (37,244 in 2019) and struggles with having the funds to help house people who are living with HIV and are also homeless.1,2

In Virginia, there were 23,691 (in 2019) people living with HIV. In Petersburg, Virginia, people who are living with HIV and also experiencing homelessness are placed in unlivable conditions.3,4

So, I ask: Why aren’t funds being used to house people where they can feel safe and comfortable?

What about in Jackson, Mississippi, where organizations are getting HOPWA/HUD funding and are not using it to help a person who is living with HIV? Someone I know was put in an apartment and was told that their rent will be paid. A year went by, and they are now homeless because this organization did not do what they were supposed to do with the money.

Who holds these HIV organizations accountable?

Who is supposed to make these organizations accountable? There is so much money being issued to organizations that do a lot of talk about what is being done for people who are living with HIV. But, the work is not being shown. It’s the same, old rhetoric - just put out in a way to make it look like something different.

I am angry, hurt, and disappointed. I am seeing community advocates who do the work in their community and work extremely hard to reach others, bring awareness, educate folks and they have no help when they need it.

People living with HIV get used over and over so that these organizations can apply for grants to make it look like they are doing the work when, in fact, they are not!!!

SPEAK UP, EVERYONE!!

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