VOCAL leader in Gotham Gazette article: "Aging With HIV"

VOCAL-NY leader Jim Lister is featured in a Gotham Gazette article discussing his experience growing older with HIV and becoming a community activist. He also highlights our campaign for an affordable housing 30% rent cap protection to prevent homelessness for low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. Check out an excerpt from “Aging With HIV” below and read the full article here.

Gotham Gazette – Aging with HIV: A Triumph with Challenges

by Lynda Crawford | Nov 2011

For Jim, pleasure comes from being an activist. “I’m a late bloomer in terms of doing advocacy, putting in that effort, meeting with politicians,” he said. “Even if every campaign is not a success, being able to expend my energy in that way instead of becoming depressed and escaping by diving into some type of addiction — which will just kill you faster — makes me feel like I have some control and that I’m contributing to what will be a positive outcome.”

The Rent Cap: Jim has lived in the same apartment for 32 years; as it is private housing, he is not protected by the program that allows people with HIV/AIDS to pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rent, with the government picking up the rest.

He’s been involved in a campaign to get the 30 percent rent cap extended to clients of the HIV/AIDS Services Administration who live in independent/private housing “so we don’t have to choose between rent and meds and possibly become homeless,” he explained. “People say, ‘Well, we don’t do that with cancer.’ But battling HIV and AIDS has a lot to do with things like housing. If we can keep people in their homes, they won’t be rushing to the emergency room or to some disgusting housing situation that’s not conducive to healthy living. It’s all related.”

Jim lives on the amount he gets from social security disability. His pharmacist has waived his co-pay from the 21 medications he takes. After paying for his rent (74 percent of his monthly check), medications, and utility bills every month, he doesn’t have much left.

“I eat meals at GMHC Monday to Friday and then I go home. I get food stamps. I went eight months without eggs because they were too expensive. If we can get this rent cap bill passed,” he said. “I won’t be rich, but my life would change for the better. When my mother died in California, I didn’t have the money to go to her funeral.”

Blog, HIV/AIDS, Media Coverage

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