The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on May 23 announced up to $9.1 million in grants to address the housing needs of people with low-incomes living with HIV/AIDS.
The competitive grants, offered through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program, are intended for states and local communities to create more integrated strategies and partnerships between housing programs and other health and human services.
David Vos, director of HUD’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing, said in a statement on the HUD Web site that the partnerships will help show “how to take holistic approaches to serving some of the nation’s most vulnerable, persons living with chronic health challenges and risks of homelessness.”
At the end of the three-year grants, HUD will evaluate and publish the results of grantees’ efforts in an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan (IHHP). The IHHP will be an online resource to help communities “integrate the delivery of housing along with medical and other supportive services,” said Vos.
The grants and IHHP are intended to support both President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy and his Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
President Obama released a National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July 2010 with specific, measurable targets to be achieved by 2015. One of the Strategy’s goals is to help people living with HIV “who have challenges meeting their basic needs, such as housing.” The Strategy says that “non-medical supportive services, such as housing, food, and transportation, are “critical elements of an effective HIV care system.”
The Strategy calls for increasing from 434,000 to 455,800 the number of people receiving HIV-related services under the Ryan White Care Act who have permanent Housing. The Ryan White Program, the largest federally funded program for people with AIDS, provides services for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources.
According to the Strategy, “Individuals living with HIV who lack stable housing are more likely to delay HIV care, have poorer access to regular care, are less likely to receive optimal antiretroviral therapy, and are less likely to adhere to therapy.”
One 12-year study of people living with HIV in New York City, cited in the Strategy, found that “housing assistance had a direct impact on improved medical care, regardless of demographics, drug use, health and mental health status, or receipt of other services.”
But HUD’s announcement comes only weeks after the U.S. House passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that AIDS activists believe will diminish HIV programs and services.
The proposed budget, authored chiefly by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), calls for dramatic cuts in Medicaid, which provides health insurance coverage for people with low incomes. And it calls for dramatic cuts in Medicare, which provides health insurance coverage for Americans 65 and older and for people with disabilities, including AIDS.
In a letter to members of the House in April, a large coalition of groups serving people with HIV had urged a “no” vote on the plan, saying it “will do irreparable harm to people living with HIV disease as well as those at risk for HIV infection.”
In addition to addressing the housing needs of people living with AIDS, HUD has also taken several significant steps towards addressing housing discrimination in the LGBT community.
It has issued proposed new regulations intended to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in its core housing programs. It also clarified that, although the Fair Housing Act—a pivotal civil rights act that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status, does not specifically cover sexual orientation- or gender identity-based discrimination, it may still provide them with protection in other ways.
For example, discrimination against a gay man because of fear he will spread HIV/AIDS may constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of a perceived disability, HIV/AIDS.
HUD has also instructed staff to inform individuals about state and local LGBT protections that may apply to them. And HUD has told all its grant applicants they must comply with such laws, where they exist.
Applications for the new grants should be submitted at grants.gov by August 2, 2011. Winners are expected to be announced by September 20, 2011.