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Affordable Housing , Homelessness , Supportive Housing

Shawn Lang: Housing Vital to HIV Treatment & Prevention

26 November 2012

Shawn Lang, Director of Public Policy at the CT AIDS Resource CoalitionI recently returned from the United States Conference on AIDS.  Prior to the conference, the National AIDS Housing Coalition (NAHC), on whose board I sit, was holding our annual meeting.  Simultaneously, there was a two-day Summit to End AIDS in America taking place directly across the hall from our meeting. 

The NAHC board got copies of the Declaration to End AIDS in America. After reading it, we were outraged that nowhere in that document was housing mentioned.  There was an almost casual reference to homelessness as being a barrier to care (alongside poverty, stigma and discrimination).

But that was as close as they got to anything remotely related to housing.

What we know, after 30 years of experience and after convening six AIDS and Housing Research Summits, is that housing is an evidenced-based structural intervention in HIV prevention and treatment.  We know that HIV rates are higher among people who are homeless, and that they are more likely to engage in higher risk behaviors.  And, we know -- unequivocally -- that getting and keeping people housed saves money.  People with HIV/AIDS who are housed stay in care, maintain their medication regimens, and are far less likely to engage in higher risk behaviors -- all of which saves public dollars like Medicaid and Medicare.

Around HIV/AIDS tables, I fight to ensure that housing is included; and around housing tables, I fight to make sure people with HIV/AIDS are included.  After 30 years, I’d hoped we would have made more progress.

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