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D.C. AIDS Czar Gives Strongest Support Yet to D.C. AIDS Strategy

April 27, 2010

Skipper filled in D.C. officials about what it's like to need AIDS housing.
Skipper filled in D.C. officials about what it's like to need AIDS housing.
In a meeting with officials from Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration and AIDS advocates last Thursday, D.C. Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration Shannon Hader issued her strongest support yet in favor of creating a strategic plan to deal with HIV/AIDS in the District. However, Hader said she was waiting on the federal government for more specifics.

Members of D.C. Fights Back said that Hader's comments last week were the clearest sign yet of her support for a strategic plan.

"Dr. Hader said she's very much in support of D.C. having a plan," said Christine Campbell, Housing Works vice president for national advocacy and organizing and a member of D.C. Fights Back, a Campaign to End AIDS affiliate. "She said they just need to see what the National AIDS Strategy comes up with. James Carter was not as excited about a plan without money attached to it."

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James Carter, an aide to Fenty attended the meeting. According to Campbell, Carter said that Fenty's administration supports an AIDS strategy but was reluctant to create one without money attached.

In a short conversation with the Update, Carter said Fenty's administration does support a D.C. AIDS plan and that not to support such a plan "is like saying you don't support children."

At least three percent of the population in D.C. is HIV-positive. While Hader, a Fenty appointee, has been praised by advocates for her responsiveness in dealing with the epidemic, activists have criticized Fenty for not being vocal enough about HIV/AIDS.

And while D.C. has taken some positive steps to addressing AIDS, it still has a long way to go, starting with a serious housing shortage for people with HIV/AIDS. There is a 600-plus waiting list for the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) housing voucher. Only 11 people on this list have been housed since 2008.


Theresa's Story

The person who did a lot of the talking in the meeting was Theresa Skipper. Skipper is on the HOPWA waiting list. She has been HIV-positive for 19 years. She had a HOPWA voucher, which she returned in 2008 because she had recently received her B.A. in finance and assumed she would be financially stable. But she has been unable to find employment, she believes, in part because of a long-ago conviction. Skipper was teetering on the verge of homelessness.

Thankfully, Skipper's husband found work in January, so she has been able to keep her market-rent apartment. Before that, Skipper said she contemplated suicide and her viral load increased from stress. However, Skipper said "our expenses exceed income" and is scared that one move of bad luck could leave her and her family on the streets, and cause her health to worsen.

"My husband has experienced homelessness. I don't know what it's like to live in a homeless shelter and i don't want to find out," Skipper said. "We shouldn't have to make choices to pay rent or eat."

Skipper said that while her situation has improved (as tenuous as it may be), she is concerned for other people in HIV-positive people, and criticized D.C. for not focusing on affordable housing.

"It's so frustrating. They took neighborhoods and turned them into private properties. None of it is for low-income housing," she said. "The city is not thinking of other strategies for us. They're just hoping we'll die off."



  
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This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
See Also
News About HIV/AIDS Support & Care in Washington, D.C.
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