Governor Cuomo acted yesterday to make New York City HASA benefits available to public assistance recipients with HIV regardless of whether they have ever had an AIDS diagnosis, a key demand of the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition and one of VOCAL’s most important campaigns. This change, along with Mayor de Blasio’s World AIDS Day commitment to fund New York City’s 71% portion of the cost of the program, means that roughly 7,000 people living with HIV will begin to receive enhanced housing, food and transportation assistance from the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) when the program goes into effect in 60 days.
This victory marks a major step forward in tackling the dual epidemics of HIV and homelessness, and is a vital component of the plan to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York. We applaud both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for fulfilling this goal that people living with HIV and their allies have fought for over a decade to achieve, initially through a campaign called ‘HASA for All.’ VOCAL-NY is honored to be a part of the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition and the long history of AIDS activism.
Winning this policy change was a hard fought campaign that included a 24-hour vigil and civil disobedience during the final hours of the state budget session, which was covered across the state by the Associated Press, Newsday, Time Warner Cable, Crain’s, News 12, NPR, Albany Times-Unions and Gay City News.
There is more to be done and a need to be vigilant. Most importantly, we still must secure these same housing and nutrition benefits to people living with HIV outside of New York City like VOCAL-NY Albany leader Richard Jackson, who told his story in Albany Times-Union. And we must ensure that the state pays their fair share for the program across the state.