The Partnership for the Homeless

Statement on World AIDS Day 2011

December 1, 2011

The Right to Housing: An Important Step Toward an AIDS-Free Generation

Act AwareOn this, the 30th “anniversary” of the discovery of the first case of AIDS, we once again stop on December 1st to reflect on our progress fighting this epidemic and the challenges that lie ahead. The Partnership for the Homeless stands together with HIV advocates and all people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to acknowledge and celebrate the lives of all of those who are engaged in working toward the creation of an “AIDS - Free Generation”.

While the overall number of new infections in the U.S. has remained relatively stable over the past several years, certain communities continue to see dramatic increases. People experiencing or at risk of homelessness remain at considerably higher risk of HIV/AIDS; which is why the right to adequate housing is a significant component of HIV/AIDS prevention. We must remain vigilant and insure that people living with HIV/AIDS are able to enjoy their human rights unequivocally and without discrimination, in particular the right to housing. While the profound relationship between homelessness and HIV/AIDS is well known – with a disproportionate number of PLWHAs experiencing homelessness in their lifetime and homelessness putting people at increased risk for HIV/AIDS – adequate housing remains one of the greatest unmet needs of people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

As an organization committed to eradicating the root causes of homelessness in New York City, the Partnership for the Homeless encourages activists everywhere to acknowledge the right to adequate housing as a human right and to recognize its important implications for people living with HIV/AIDS. The right to adequate housing is codified in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. As a practical matter, the Partnership affirms that every New York City resident should have access to:

  1. Decent and affordable housing: Housing is essential for healthy living, and without housing, many other basic human rights are compromised. A person’s primary need is for stable housing, and other issues around health and prosperity can and should be addressed once housing is secured. Indeed, a home of one’s own fulfills deep-seated needs for autonomy and personal space.

  2. Good physical health and mental well-being: Quality health is crucial to the realization of many other fundamental human rights and freedoms, and is more than the absence of “disease or infirmity.” Good health is the chance to live a full life and be nourished physically and mentally. Every person deserves access to health care that is adequate for their health and well being.

  3. Economic prosperity: To live an autonomous life, every person deserves access to a quality education, the ability to seek employment on an equal basis with others, and the opportunity to participate in productive work, especially at a living wage.

  4. Community: Every person should be able to participate in the cultural life of a thriving and environmentally healthy community – one free from discrimination, stigma, and violence – where they can move freely and safely and live with dignity.

The Partnership is well aware of the various social factors and structural barriers driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but highlights the fact that housing issues cut across virtually all populations and regions affected by HIV/AIDS. Not only are homeless individuals disproportionately affected by the disease, up to 60% of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States experience homelessness or unstable housing in their lifetime.

Through its direct service and housing assistance work, the Partnership recognizes that housing is an immediate first step on the road to well-being and community integration. Housing not only helps people living with HIV/AIDS garner stability, independence, and increased self-esteem and sense of dignity, but facilitates engagement in health services. Research shows that housing stability is directly related to higher levels of medication adherence, decreased viral loads, lowered HIV transmission rates, and reduced mortality.

Without a doubt, decent and affordable housing protects individuals from a range of personal and public health threats, including violence, substance use, and incarceration, in addition to HIV. Conversely, homelessness and the pressures of daily survival needs are linked to high-risk behaviors.

Moreover, individuals with co-occurring homelessness and HIV infection are often stigmatized and isolated from family and community. Our experience and research shows that PLWHAs with secure housing and social support report lower levels of stress, depression, and HIV-related stigma.

Unfortunately, however, despite the effective role housing plays in the prevention and transmission of HIV, as well as one’s overall quality of life, national research shows that housing remains the greatest unmet service need among PLWHAs today.

This World AIDS Day, the Partnership affirms its commitment to those who are homeless in New York City, and in particular those living with or at high-risk for HIV/AIDS. As the Partnership continues to work towards ending homelessness in New York City by 2020, we will advocate for a city, a nation, and a world that provides non-discriminatory and non-judgmental access to housing and adequate HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support.

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