Lack of Housing Most Important Health Risk for People with HIV. 1/5/12
A march for AIDS housing at the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico City
A new study shows that housing and food are the biggest predictors of health than for people with HIV.
The study was conducted by University of California at San Francisco on 288 homeless men with HIV over a six year period (a similar study was done last year with homeless women and had similar results).
The SF Gate reported on the research study, and noted “Lacking basic necessities had a larger negative health effect than drug abuse, the virus in their blood or lack of treatment. Even among patients who were getting drug therapy for their HIV, the effects of being homeless offset most of the positive effects of treatment. But for many very poor patients, being homeless keeps them from getting consistent drug treatment at all.”
This study, which reflects what many AIDS activists have been saying for years, contradicts the recent NYC HASA policies. HASA’s new policy calls for people who fail a drug use assessment to go through drug treatment or be denied access to permanent housing benefits through HASA. Because you have to have an AIDS diagnosis to get HASA assistance, people who may be already facing the most serious health challenges can be denied housing if they are not ready or able to go through treatment.
More and more, NGOs, governments, local health departments and some activists are advocating for people to start HIV treatments as soon as they are diagnosed. Housing Works believes people should begin treatment when they are ready and able. It also seems that as long as AIDS remains mostly a disease of the poor in the US, any strategy to ending the epidemic has to prioritize housing.
The study concludes that “Impoverished persons will not fully benefit from progress in HIV medicine until these barriers are overcome, a situation that is likely to continue fueling the US HIV epidemic.”