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Access to Stable Housing and Other Basic Necessities Huge Factor for People Living With HIV/AIDS

May 4, 2012

Last November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released what the HIV/AIDS community already knew to be true: Only 25 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. have their disease under control. Lack of access to medication and cost of meds were among the main contributing barriers.

But a new study from the University of California-San Francisco provides some other reasons. By studying 288 men living with HIV/AIDS who were homeless or in unstable housing situations, researchers found that basic necessities such as food, housing and clean clothes had the largest effect on mental and physical health -- topping drug abuse, viral load and lack of access to meds. Other findings included:

  • Researchers gave participants physical and mental health scores based on a scale of 0 to 100. The median physical health score was 43 and the median mental health score was 46.
  • Researchers then determined the effects of various positive and negative influences on the participants' health. Not having basic needs had the biggest impact, lowering the physical health score by 3.8 percent and mental health score by 3.5 percent. Regular use of antiretroviral drugs improved the mental health score by 1.7 percent but had a negligible effect on the physical health score.

The San Francisco Gate reported on the study:

[For] many very poor patients, being homeless keeps them from getting consistent drug treatment at all.

Basic human needs must be addressed in parallel with HIV treatment if patients are going to stay healthy, said Elise Riley, lead author of the study. And until these needs are addressed, and the poorest HIV-positive patients are able to manage their illness, the virus will continue to circulate in the United States, she added.

"We're willing to spend all this money on medication, but it's not going to be doing as much good if we don't have more opportunities for housing or other needs," said Riley, an associate professor in the UCSF HIV/AIDS division at San Francisco General Hospital.

Brad Hare, M.D. and medical director of San Francisco General Hospital's HIV clinic, told the Gate, "We're always struggling with people who need to be on HIV treatment for their health but that's not the priority. This study validates what we've seen. It recognizes just how important the structural barriers are to HIV care."

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.

Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
More on the Homeless and HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Q (San Francisco, CA) Sun., May. 13, 2012 at 6:09 am UTC
I became infected just after I became unemployed. I did get medical care and eventually medication through a public program, which is great, but always felt I was on my own in terms of housing and food assistant. I had a social worker who gave me resources on all of the above, but I was never really guided to seek food and shelter help, which I would have qualified for by the city or state. To this day I still don't know how to apply, or what to apply to. I did just submit my own application for OA PCIP, but without an enrollment center. I consider myself lucky to have survived off the savings I had, but it was a close call. I feel that even if I were on the verge of becoming homeless without food, I would have hidden it from my family and friends and would not know what to do.
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Comment by: Cheryl W. (Deerfield Beach, Fl) Thu., May. 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm UTC
Basic needs, are not only a problem for the homeless. Others, like myself truly suffer who have had this Virus for over 24 years. I have been symtomatic since 1989,therefore, on SSI and Medicaid. With no housing provided, or if some is by sheer luck, how is anyone expected to have anytype of life without mental and physical suffering living on $684.00 per month. Yes, you can do the numbers. If anyone can buy food, pay for bills, phone, electricity, and anything else that are very very basic human needs I would really like to know about this. I am a hetrosexual white women,who was one of the first to be involved in the late 80's on these matters. I have worked with GMHC,way back when,in NY,Planned Parenthood, facilitaded and started many groups for women, especially those with children. Most of my firends are now deceased. The topic of your article, is one that has remained rapidly getting worse over the time I have lived with this virus. I will now be 60 this coming October and find that I Must move back to NY for there are NO means in Florida to even have correct Medical Care..let alone, basic needs. This IS A DEADLY VIRUS. I have been in the trenches for so long that subjects as these MUST be brought to the forefront Once Again. Perhaps with the revolution of Medication people have become complacent and really think HIV?AIDS is "over-there". I dared not dream that I would still be alive at this age. Now to become an activist once again is very very troublesome if one really cares about the general public who suffering still in hiding with this disease. The drug companies have made billions and once again we are talking basic needs. i Hope to hear from anyone who wants to awaken the spirit of Compassion for All HIV/AIDS suffers'to be able to have a life of perhaps a bit more than basic needs. Shelter,food and meds DO NOT equal quality of life, especially to an ill person. thank you.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: steve (london, uk) Mon., May. 21, 2012 at 10:51 am UTC
I felt very moved reading cheryls comment and wanted to say to her to keep fighting. As a long term diagnosed positive patient (since 1985) I understand how difficult it feels to fight long term but also how important this is. In the late 80s I was involved with a number of organisations providing practical assistance to positive people and know the difference this made in their lives and also in mine.
Drugs are one thing but are a waste of money if the life the are extending is not supported and the person given at least the basics of warmth food and shelter.
I wish both of you luck.

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