May 27, 2010
The U.S. House of Representatives signaled a turning point in national AIDS policy this week, passing a resolution that recognizes housing as a critical method to fighting HIV/AIDS.
"... In spite of the evidence indicating that adequate housing has a direct positive effect on HIV prevention, treatment, and health outcomes, the housing resources devoted to the national response to HIV/AIDS have been inadequate and housing has been larger ignored in policy discussions ..." declares the resolution, offically called H. Con. Res 137.
Introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York's 8th district, the resolutions says:
Previous policy often focused on medication as the key to fighting HIV/AIDS. For years, however, statistics have pointed to clear links between homelessness and HIV infection. According to the resolution, up to 14 percent of all homeless people are HIV positive, a rate 10 times that of the national population.
"This is a paradigm shift in policy," said Nancy Bernstine, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition.
Now, armed with a piece of paper stating that it is Congress' will to making housing a priority, AIDS advocates can demand that local politicians devote resources to housing, and ask that local governments make it an integral part of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention plans.
The next step, Bernstine said, is to pass a similar resolution in the U.S. Senate, something already being pushed through by Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. Canada has passed a similar resolution -- as has the state of Delaware -- and housing will be part of a large multinational discussion at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna this July.
"In Washington, D.C., we have a waiting list of over 600 HIV-positive people who need housing," said Christine Campbell, Housing Works director of national advocacy and organizing. "With this resolution, we have a tool that can be used to ask the government to get the resources to fix that problem. This is a real affirmation that housing can be just as important as medication in fighting the AIDS epidemic."