Dec. 1 marks World Aids Day. Local advocates said on Friday that there have been new advances in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
But, there’s more work to be done.
Rochester-area advocates and lawmakers gathered at the Monroe County Office Building to speak out about the risk for homeless in the HIV population. They’re calling for support on a new piece of legislation that would help low-income individuals living with the diagnosis.
Here’s what proposed legislation would do:
For low-income people living with HIV, social services would cap what they pay for housing at no more than 30% of their income
It’s a benefit that was created in 2019, but only as an option and never mandated.
“The only social service districts that have opted in, come from New York City,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson.
Bronson said while the virus is more manageable, housing instability can be a barrier to treatment.
Advocates say housing is healthcare, and in the HIV and AIDS community, there’s a lot of folks who are marginalized, and struggling to afford stable homes.
Pedro Benitez with Vocal-NY says he’s been fighting the fight for years.
“We’ve made more movement in the last year than we have in the prior 12 years,” said Pedro Benitez with Vocal-NY.
“I think its important to think about the journey, think about the early years,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson. “We do know that if individuals get the healthcare they deserve and they need, then they can become undetectable.”
Undetectable, meaning treatment can help a person reach an undetectable viral load; according to Dr. Bill Valenti with Trillium Health. That measures the amount of virus in the bloodstream.
When the virus is undetectable, it helps to prevent spread.
“Many of the people with HIV today are people on the margins, poverty,” said Valenti.
And many, he said, are at risk for homelessness.
“Housing assistance is really important — housing is healthcare, and without a place to live, to put yourself and store your medicine, take your medicine, treatment just doesn’t work the same way,” he said.
Bronson said there is strong support in both the Assembly and the Senate for this bill. He said he’s hopeful they can get it passed through the state budget, but if not, they’ll take the legislative route.
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