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GMHC Thanks Councilmember Corey Johnson for Introducing Legislation That Will Enable Low-Income, HIV-Positive New Yorkers Who Do Not Have an AIDS Diagnosis to Access HASA Housing and Support Resources
New York, NY–The following is a statement from Kelsey Louie, Chief Executive Officer of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) on today’s introduction of new city legislation that will enable low-income, HIV-positive New Yorkers who do not have an AIDS diagnosis to access HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) housing and support resources.
“It is heartbreaking when New Yorkers living with HIV come to GMHC in desperate need of housing and other assistance, only to find out that they are ‘too healthy’ to be eligible for HASA benefits,” said Kelsey Louie, GMHC’s CEO. “No one should have to wait until they have an AIDS diagnosis to receive the life-saving support proven to not only help them stay healthy, but also prevent new HIV infections. Thank you Council Member Corey Johnson for ensuring equal access to HASA’s housing and support services. This bill is critical to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020.”
Council Member Corey Johnson’s Press Release:
THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
OFFICE OF COUNCIL MEMBER COREY JOHNSON
224 West 30th Street, #1206
New York, NY 10001
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
February 26, 2016
Contact: Erik Bottcher, o: 212-564-7757, c: 646-612-0257 firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Member Corey Johnson, Elected Officials and HIV/AIDS Advocates Unveil “HASA for All” Legislation
Key to Ending the Epidemic, Bill Would Change HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) Medical Eligibility to Include all Persons with HIV Infection
City Hall–NYC Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson was joined today by elected officials and advocates for public health, homelessness & HIV/AIDS to unveil long-sought legislation that would expand HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) benefits to all low-income, HIV-positive New York City residents.
HIV/AIDS activists lauded the move as a key step in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State. Allowing more individuals to qualify for housing, nutrition and transportation services through HASA will give low-income, HIV-positive individuals a foundation from which HIV treatment and care can be fully managed, reducing community viral loads and preventing significant numbers of new infections.
Current HASA regulations require those who receive benefits from HASA to have an AIDS diagnosis or symptomatic HIV infection, meaning a T-cell count of 200 or less or two opportunistic infections, such as pneumocystis carinii pneumonia or toxoplasmosis. Council Member Johnson’s legislation would expand this definition to include individuals with asymptomatic HIV.
“HIV/AIDS is a disease of inequities,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council’s Health Committee. “Poverty, homelessness and a lack of access to healthcare are conditions that fuel the epidemic. The inability to obtain housing, food and other basic subsistence needs results in disconnection from HIV care, failure to achieve and maintain viral suppression, an increased risk of transmitting HIV to others. Our shared vision of ending the AIDS epidemic in our State by 2020 will remain out of reach if we do not connect persons living with HIV access to proven intervention strategies.”
The HASA system has been extremely effective delivering coordinated benefits and services. For decades, the program has provided a single point of entry for access to enhanced rental assistance, case management and other public benefits, including a transportation allowance.
Eligibility for the program is currently tied under NYC local law to a NYS Department of Health AIDS Institute definition of HIV-related illness (more recently described as “clinical/symptomatic HIV infection”), a definition that has not been changed since the mid-1990s, is now out of date and no longer used by the AIDS Institute for any purpose. Furthermore, this definition is inconsistent with current treatment guidelines and HIV prevention strategies.
In New York City, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people with HIV – including 800 or more who reside in NYC shelters on any given night – remain medically ineligible for the publicly funded HIV-specific non-shelter housing assistance, case management and transportation allowance that are provided for persons with symptomatic HIV infection through HASA. Homeless people with asymptomatic HIV infection are often forced into the Hobson’s choice of initiating treatment and remaining homeless or delaying treatment until they qualify for rental assistance or supportive housing.
A large body of research demonstrates that homelessness and unstable housing are strongly associated with greater HIV risk, inadequate HIV health care, poor health outcomes, and early death. A 2005 New York City study found the rate of new HIV diagnoses among homeless persons sixteen times the rate in the general population, and death rates due to HIV/AIDS five to seven times higher among homeless persons. For people living with HIV, lack of stable housing poses barriers to engagement in care and treatment success at each point in the HIV care continuum.
Numerous studies consistently find that PWH who lack stable housing are more likely to delay HIV testing and entry into care following HIV diagnosis, more likely to experience discontinuous care (dropping in and out of care and/or changing providers often), less likely to be on antiretroviral therapy and are less likely achieve sustained viral suppression. With homelessness being one of the primary drivers of the spread of HIV and the progression of the virus into AIDS, if passed, this legislation would have a direct impact on the dual crises of HIV/AIDS and homelessness, particularly among LGBT youth.
“HASA for all takes the important next step of expanding HASA benefits to all people with HIV before they get sick,” said Council Member Steve Levin, Chair of Committee on General Welfare. “Providing life-saving services to New Yorkers in need is the right thing to do and I’m proud to support HASA for all. Thank you to Council Member Corey Johnson for introducing this legislation.”
“Expanding HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) benefits for all low income New Yorkers living with HIV is essential in our struggle towards containing–and eventually eradicating–this epidemic,” said Council Member Annabel Palma. “HASA’s medical eligibility requirements need to illustrate that individuals with HIV are increasingly seeking treatment earlier, to prevent the development of AIDS. I have been a diligent proponent of this eligibility expansion since 2008, and it’s time to update the eligibility requirements to include the thousands of New Yorkers who are in need of housing and vital services, and who are unable to receive full benefits. The city needs to make investments that keep these individuals in their own homes, and out of expensive HASA emergency shelters.”
“People living with HIV/AIDS are our families, friends, and neighbors and they need our support,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Many people living with HIV/AIDS must devote a large chunk of their income to medical care leaving them without the means for necessities like rent, food and transportation. The city and state need to step up their housing, nutrition and transportation support for this community and show them that we care.”
“This bill is the difference between homelessness and housing for thousands of New Yorkers living with HIV,” said Jennifer Flynn, Executive Director of VOCAL. “In other words, this piece of legislation is perhaps one of the most important thing that we can do to advance the end of the AIDS epidemic. We can end AIDS, we can end homelessness. Councilmember Johnson is doing his part. Now it’s up to all of us to make this the law.”
“We can only end the AIDS epidemic through bold leadership from local government representatives like NYC Council Member Corey Johnson,” said Charles King, CEO/President of Housing Works. “People with HIV need access to housing and essential services, and we look forward to our leaders in Albany working with local elected officials across the state to end AIDS.”
“It is heartbreaking when New Yorkers living with HIV come to GMHC in desperate need of housing and other assistance, only to find out that they are ‘too healthy’ to be eligible for HASA benefits,” said Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). “No one should have to wait until they have an AIDS diagnosis to receive the life-saving support proven to not only help them stay healthy, but also prevent new HIV infections. Thank you Council Member Corey Johnson for ensuring equal access to HASA’s housing and support services. This bill is critical to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020.”
“The impact of HIV is not limited to the medical aspects of the disease; they are in fact much greater and more complicated, and powerfully influence basic human needs like housing,” said Carrie Davis, Chief Programs and Policy Officer at New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “By expanding HASA’s medical eligibility to include asymptomatic HIV, Council Member Johnson is helping New Yorkers who live with HIV gain the equal footing they need to address the disease and be productive, healthy citizens.”
“We commend Council Member Corey Johnson and VOCAL-NY for going one step further in helping to protect New Yorkers and put an end to the HIV/AIDS crisis by introducing legislation that would extend the HASA’s eligibility,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan M. Schaefer. “Passage of this life-saving legislation will ensure a healthier New York City.”
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one that is fueled by poverty,” said Jim Bolas, Executive Director at Coalition for Homeless Youth. “This legislation, if passed, would allow our homeless HIV positive youth in NYC to finally access the essential, life-saving services that are needed to keep themselves healthy, and reduce the spread of the virus and potential risks to their lives.”
About Gay Men’s Health Crisis
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) is the nation’s leading provider of HIV/AIDS care, prevention services and advocacy, serving nearly 9,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, the epidemic’s largest U.S. epicenter. As the world’s first HIV and AIDS service organization GMHC is an expert in providing services that every person affected by the epidemic deserves. GMHC is on the front lines caring for people who are both HIV negative and positive, including: testing, nutrition, legal, mental health and education services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal level with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic in New York State by 2020. Most recently, GMHC and other HIV/AIDS organizations successfully persuaded the federal government to recommend widespread use of PrEP, a new daily treatment that is over 90% effective in preventing HIV infection. For more information, visit www.gmhc.org.