This week, DC is host to the International AIDS Conference. For many HIV positive people, a key element of treatment is access to stable housing. The International Leadership Summit on Housing held on Saturday before the conference offered a space for leaders in HIV treatment and prevention to discuss the importance of housing for maintaining the health of HIV positive residents and lowering HIV transmission rates. According to National AIDS Housing:
Stable, affordable housing offers the best opportunity for persons living with HIV/AIDS to access drug therapies and treatments and supportive services that will enhance the quality of life for themselves and their families. When people are housed, they can access and adhere to drug treatments and therapies and require fewer hospitalizations and less emergency room care. It has been estimated that as many as half of all people living with HIV/AIDS will need housing assistance at some point in their illness. For many of those, short-term assistance with rent, mortgage, or utility costs alone will provide the necessary support to remain healthy and in stable housing. But others are struggling with multiple diagnoses of HIV and mental illness and/or substance use. Access to housing assistance and services is often further complicated by histories of incarceration, institutionalization, and homelessness.
In DC, supportive housing providers work to meet the needs of the District’s residents who need assistance to stay in stable housing, including HIV positive residents. CNHED members such as Transitional Housing Corporation and Community of Hope offer residents housing as well as access to ongoing case management and additional services, based on the individual’s needs and goals. Another CNHED member, Housing Counseling Services provides the Metropolitan Housing Access Program which connects HIV positive residents with housing opportunities.
A recent report by DC government shows that the District faces a real crisis in HIV prevention and treatment. In DC’s poorest neighborhoods, infection rates are a staggering 12%, with the city-wide average high at 3%. This is much higher than the national figure, which has held steady at less than one percent. The face of HIV is diverse in DC, including high numbers of heterosexual individuals as well as populations most associated with the epidemic. Many HIV positive residents still struggle to find housing. In 2010 there were 600 people on DC’s waiting list for housing for people with HIV, and little movement has been reported since then
We know that stable housing improves outcomes for everyone, including people who are HIV positive. If DC is serious about ending the AIDS epidemic in our city, we must invest in creating opportunities for HIV positive residents to access housing and services that they need to care for themselves, and invest in the housing programs that can offer this stability.