Homes, not Graves, for People with AIDS

PHILADELPHIA – On March 3rd, Mayor Michael Nutter will release his budget proposal for next year. On Thursday, February 24th ACT UP Philadelphia (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) will preemptively hold a demonstration at City Hall to remind him that, “time’s up, wake up: include money in the city budget for housing for people with HIV/AIDS.”

WHAT: Time’s Up, Nutter!: Fund Homes not Graves for People with HIV/AIDS
WHEN: Thursday, February 24th @ 10:30am WHERE: at the Love Park sign at 15th and JFK St.

“There is a crisis in our city. People with HIV/AIDS are dying on the streets, and Mayor Nutter has done nothing to address the situation,” said ACT UP member Jose de Marco. “We are coming to tell Mayor Nutter and City Council that the time is up, the stakes are high, they need to include funding in the budget to end the current waiting list for HIV/AIDS housing.”

According to the city's own 2008 report to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at the federal government, there are 8,000 individuals with HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia who are in need of housing assistance. This includes people living in unsafe and unstable housing situations – on the streets, in shelters, in cars, or on the couches of family members. When HIV+ people are in such situations, they are more likely to delay starting, or stop taking, life-saving medication, which leads to more hospital visits and increased resistance to medication.

ACT UP members, along with allies from the University of Pennsylvania, met with Mayor Nutter in November 2010 to share their experiences in the shelters and on the streets, and laid out why they felt Mayor Nutter had no choice but to fund housing for people with HIV/AIDS. At the meeting, the Mayor said that he agreed that housing was important, but that he “lives in a political world” and that it would not be possible for him to fund housing for people with HIV.

“The Mayor’s response to the direct appeal from homeless people with HIV/AIDS was astounding. We come to the Mayor and explain how he’s clearly wasting money and leaving people to die on the streets and he’s not willing to even say he’d try to find the money. It’s crazy!” said ACT UP member Carla Fields.

Beyond saving the lives of people with HIV/AIDS, housing is also a critical tool for HIV/AIDS prevention. People in unstable housing situations are more likely to engage in unsafe activities like sharing needles or having unprotected, and often coerced, survival sex. When people with HIV/AIDS have access to safe and stable housing, they are more likely to take their medication on time. Taking anti-HIV medication regularly lowers the amount of virus in a person’s blood, making them less likely to transmit HIV to others. “If you meet people’s most basic need – shelter – then people are healthier all around, which will save the city money,” said ACT UP member Cliff Williams. “Prioritizing housing for people with HIV/AIDS saves lives and money.”

Two to four million dollars per year would provide sufficient funding to end the current housing waiting list for people with HIV/AIDS. According to a report released by Penn Graduate Students, the HIV/AIDS housing waiting list has fluctuated between 150 and over 200 people this year. They estimate that for less than the cost of providing care in shelters, the city could provide rental assistance that would help get people out of shelters and unstable housing conditions (which pose a specific hazard to the immuno-compromised) and into real housing. Other needs could be met through streamlining the city’s case management process and providing targeted care to those with complicated substance abuse, or mental health needs.

“Hopefully by reminding Mayor Nutter of the importance of this issue he will do the right thing and include enough money to end the HIV/AIDS housing waiting list in his budget. If not, well, it’s pretty hard to ignore sick people with HIV/AIDS when they are ringing alarm clocks outside your office,” said Cliff Williams.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 22, 2011

Contact: Antonio Davis, 267-592-2837