March 2, 2022
Mariah McGough, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203 470 9979
LAWMAKERS AND ADVOCATES DEMAND FAIR AND EQUAL STATEWIDE ACCESS TO LIFESAVING HOUSING ASSISTANCE FOR PEOPLE WITH HIV EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS OR HOUSING INSTABILITY
ALBANY, N.Y. — Today, people with HIV (PWH) and other advocates were joined by state lawmakers on the Million Dollar Staircase at the Capitol to demand FY23 NYS budget language that would finally make good on years of broken promises to ensure that all low-income New Yorkers with HIV have equal access to the housing assistance currently available only to residents of New York City.
Every New Yorker with HIV deserves equal access to the stable housing necessary to support effective treatment, no matter where in the state they live. Advocates call on both houses of the legislature to include the necessary budget changes in their one-house bills, and for Governor Hochul to work with them to make sure the FY23 enacted budget provides equitable access to the existing NYS HIV rental assistance program and affordable housing protection.
“Stable, safe and affordable housing is a necessity for all New Yorkers and even more so for our neighbors living with HIV,” said Senator Brad Hoylman. “When housed, those with HIV are better able to access the medical care and treatments they need to stay healthy. In 2014, I successfully fought to institute a 30% rent contribution cap for NYC residents with HIV+ New Yorkers receiving rental assistance. Now we must expand that protection to HIV+ New Yorkers living in the whole state. Further, we must fully reimburse the cost of HIV Enhanced Shelter Allowance. That’s why I’m proud to join VOCAL-NY and Housing Works in the fight to make sure those living with HIV outside of NYC have the stable homes they need to manage their healthcare. New Yorkers living with HIV have to deal with enough already, so let’s make sure they can stay in their homes and access the treatments they need.”
“Housing is the basis for a sound and healthy life for persons living with HIV,” said Senator Pete Harckham. “Expansion of housing subsidies outside NYC will help provide residents with necessary support.”
“The housing and homelessness crisis amid the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbated by related economic, social, and health disparities,” said Jawanza Williams, Director of Organizing with VOCAL-NY. “Again, we are calling on Governor Hochul to correct the failures of previous administrations that neglected the desperate need for AIDS housing support for communities outside the 5-boroughs. The need is there, it’s time to get it done.”
“The ongoing failure to meet the housing needs of New Yorkers with HIV living outside of NYC undermines the individual health of New Yorkers with HIV, HIV prevention efforts, and our statewide ETE goals,” said Charles King, CEO and Co-Founder, Housing Works. “The COVID-19 crisis has added a new level of urgency for action. Governor Cuomo is no longer our governor and it is well past time to end his legacy of neglect. Governor Hochul must make the language change we’ve asked for and ensure people with HIV have stable housing across New York State if she genuinely wants to see the end of this epidemic.”
“In the past 40 years of the AIDS epidemic, we have made great strides against HIV discrimination. Yet today, persons with HIV continue to be discriminated against by New York State based on where they live,” said Perry Junjulas, Executive Director, Albany Damien Center and Person with AIDS. “Low-income persons with HIV deserve the same access to life-saving housing assistance that is offered by New York State to those in New York City. Our lives depend on it as does our ability to End the AIDS Epidemic for the whole state!”
For the past four years, former Governor Cuomo claimed to have added NYS budget language providing equal access across the State to both the NYS HIV Emergency Shelter Allowance rental assistance program and a 30% rent cap enacted in 2014 to enable extremely low-income PWH to sustain their housing. In all these years, not a single person with HIV has been housed as a result of this budget language. Unfortunately, Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget carries over this failed Cuomo language.
A large body of research evidence demonstrates that homelessness and housing instability are among the strongest predictors of HIV health disparities, independently linked to disconnection from care, detectable viral load, and premature mortality, after controlling for other factors, such as behavioral health issues, that can impact treatment access and adherence. For people with HIV experiencing homelessness or housing instability, receipt of housing assistance has been shown to improve rates of viral load suppression, dramatically lower HIV mortality, and significantly reduce avoidable emergency and inpatient health care utilization.
Highly-effective HIV treatments that sustain health and stop transmission of the virus make it possible to end our NYS AIDS epidemic even without a cure. But people with HIV experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity lack the safety and stability necessary to benefit from these treatments. For that reason, since 2015 NYS’s historic Blueprint for Ending the Epidemic has called for action to provide access to housing assistance as a core component of HIV health care The End The Epidemic Blueprint’s housing recommendations have been fully implemented in NYC since 2016, where low-income people with HIV who lack stable housing have access under NYS laws and regulations to market rate rental assistance and a 30% rent cap affordable housing protection.
People with HIV living upstate and on Long Island, however, are denied the same housing assistance, leaving many individuals and families homeless or unstably housed. Current budget language leaves provision of these HIV housing benefits optional, and does not include any additional State funding for communities outside NYC who cannot afford to cover the costs on their own. The impact of this inequity is stark, with the rest of the State lagging far behind NYC on every health metric used to measure progress toward our goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic in NYS.