PR: New York City Council Introduces Bill to Expand Life-Saving Benefits to Poor People with HIV

For Immediate Release

Contact: Alyssa Aguilera, alyssa@vocal-ny.org, 917-200-1446

COUNCIL MEMBER COREY JOHNSON, ADVOCATES, PEOPLE LIVING WITH AIDS INTRODUCE BILL TO EXPAND LIFE-SAVING BENEFITS TO HELP END AIDS IN NEW YORK

“HASA for All” legislation would expand housing and anti-poverty program to all low-income HIV+ New Yorkers

New York, NY: A broad coalition of leading HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations, along with elected officials, called for an expansion of welfare benefits to all low-income, HIV+ individuals, not just those with an AIDS diagnosis. The expanded benefits, which include enhanced housing, nutrition, and transportation support, are critical to promoting health and stopping the spread of HIV.

Led by Health committee chair Council Member Corey Johnson, the only openly HIV+ elected official in the state, and Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the General Welfare committee, the coalition pointed to a wealth of scientific data showing homelessness and poverty as the primary driver of the AIDS epidemic. By expanding life-saving benefits, HIV+ people will be in a better position to take their medication, attend regular doctor visits, and stay “virally suppressed”, meaning healthy and virtually unable to transmit the virus.

The campaign is pushing to expand eligibility requirements so that all low-income HIV+ New Yorkers are able to receive enhanced rental assistance, increased food and transportation allowances and seamless support services. Currently, these benefits are only available to NYC residents with an “AIDS” diagnosis according to the NYS AIDS Institute. However, this medically outdated eligibility requirement leaves out thousands of poor, HIV+ New Yorkers who have not yet developed AIDS, many whom are homeless youth of color, but still need support before their health deteriorates further.

“HIV/AIDS is a disease of inequities,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council’s Health Committee. “Poverty, homelessness and a lack of access to healthcare are conditions that fuel the epidemic. The inability to meet housing, food and other basic subsistence needs results in disconnection from HIV care, failure to achieve and maintain viral suppression, an increased risk of transmitting HIV to others. Our shared vision of ending the AIDS epidemic in our State by 2020 will remain out of reach if we do not provide persons living with HIV access to proven intervention strategies.”

“HASA for all takes the important next step of expanding HASA benefits to all people with HIV before they get sick,” said Council Member Steve Levin, Chair of Committee on General Welfare. “Providing life-saving services to New Yorkers in need is the right thing to do and I’m proud to support HASA for all. Thank you to Council Member Corey Johnson for introducing this legislation.”

“Expanding HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) benefits for all low income New Yorkers living with HIV is essential in our struggle towards containing–and eventually eradicating–this epidemic,” said Council Member Annabel Palma. “HASA’s medical eligibility requirements need to illustrate that individuals with HIV are increasingly seeking treatment earlier, to prevent the development of AIDS. I have been a diligent proponent of this eligibility expansion since 2008, and it’s time to update the eligibility requirements to include the thousands of New Yorkers who are in need of housing and vital services, and who are unable to receive full benefits. The city needs to make investments that keep these individuals in their own homes, and out of expensive HASA emergency shelters.”

“The science is way ahead of us. We know that getting people into stable housing is one of the best ways to keep people healthy and to outpace new infections. If New York State is serious about ending AIDS we must invest in ending the homelessness crisis among poor HIV+ New Yorkers, especially LGBT youth,” said Jason Walker, HIV/AIDS Organizer, VOCAL-NY.

“We can only end the AIDS epidemic through bold leadership from local government representatives like NYC Council Member Corey Johnson,” said Charles King, CEO/President of Housing Works. “People with HIV need access to housing and essential services, and we look forward to our leaders in Albany‎ working with local elected officials across the state to end AIDS.”

“The impact of HIV is not limited to the medical aspects of the disease; they are in fact much greater and more complicated, and powerfully influence basic human needs like housing,” said Carrie Davis, Chief Programs and Policy Officer at New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “By expanding HASA’s medical eligibility to include asymptomatic HIV, Council Member Johnson is helping New Yorkers who live with HIV gain the equal footing they need to address the disease and be productive, healthy citizens.”

“We commend Council Member Corey Johnson and VOCAL-NY for going one step further in helping to protect New Yorkers and put an end to the HIV/AIDS crisis by introducing legislation that would extend the HASA’s eligibility,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan M. Schaefer. “Passage of this life-saving legislation will ensure a healthier New York City.”

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one that is fueled by poverty,” said Jim Bolas, Executive Director at Coalition for Homeless Youth. “This legislation, if passed, would allow our homeless HIV positive youth in NYC to finally access the essential, life-saving services that are needed to keep themselves healthy, and reduce the spread of the virus and potential risks to their lives.”

“It is heartbreaking when New Yorkers living with HIV come to GMHC in desperate need for housing and other assistance, only to find out that they are ‘too healthy’ to be eligible for HASA benefits,” said Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). “No one should have to wait until they have an AIDS diagnosis to receive the life-saving support proven to not only help them stay healthy, but also prevent new HIV infections. Thank you Council Member Corey Johnson for ensuring equal access to HASA’s housing and support services. This bill is critical to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020.”

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