Press Release: Landmark HIV Treatment Study Proves That Access to Early Treatment is Essential

For Immediate Release | May 28, 2015

Contacts: Jason Walker, Jason@vocal-ny.org, 917-200-1153, or Jennifer Flynn, Jennifer@vocal-ny.org, 917-517-5202

All HIV+ New Yorkers should be able to access housing and welfare benefits to support long-term health

New York, NY: Dozens of people living with HIV/AIDS and HIV service providers will descend upon New York’s City Hall with 3 demands of City Council Members, starting with a press conference on the steps of City Hall at 10am on Thursday, May 28th, 2015.

  1. Establish an emergency fund for nonprofit housing providers so that they can keep formerly homeless New Yorkers living with AIDS in housing despite rapidly rising rents;
  1. Match the Governor’s proposal of $10 million for the historic commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic in NYS with $10 million from the City.
  1. Expand access to enhanced welfare benefits so that all low-income New Yorkers living with HIV – not only those with advanced disease – may receive housing, transportation, and nutrition support.

These demands are bolstered by news of the dramatic conclusions of the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study, which yesterday were announced 18 months early by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The study shows that starting treatment early leads to more than 50% fewer serious illnesses and improves overall health. It has already been proven that if people are on treatment and reach an undetectable viral load, it is nearly impossible for them to transmit HIV.

Advocates and scientists have long noted the crucial link between stable housing and people’s ability to consistently maintain adherence to HIV treatment. Amid a record homelessness crisis in New York City, where the shelter population exceeded 60,000 people for the first time earlier this year, there is even greater urgency for the city and state to commit to housing people with HIV.

“With the release of the START findings, it is now morally reprehensible to keep benefits that support treatment adherence out of reach to the nearly 10,000 low-income New Yorkers living with HIV who do not currently qualify,” said Jennifer Flynn, Executive Director of VOCAL and a member of the Governor’s Ending the Epidemic Task Force.

New York City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) has long provided enhanced rental assistance and other benefits, including transportation and nutrition allowances, to low-income New Yorkers with HIV, but only if they have been diagnosed with “advanced HIV disease.” Expanding these benefits to all low-income HIV+ New Yorkers, regardless of how far their disease has progressed, is a key recommendation of the Blueprint to End AIDS recently released by Governor Cuomo and written by 63 leading AIDS experts from around the State.

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