As the number of people living with HIV/AIDS continues to grow in both urban and rural areas throughout the United States, stakeholders must find new ways to address their needs to promote the health and well-being of these individuals and their families. Increasingly, maximizing the resources available to people who need them requires partnering across mainstream housing and human services systems to ensure continuity of care, program efficiency, and that there is “no wrong door” to assistance for clients at risk.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommended public health law reform as part of its Healthy People 2010 initiative. Public health law in many states is ripe for reform. Oregon state legislature has suggested that existing state statutes are ineffective in responding to contemporary health threats for many reasons. These statutes pre-date modern scientific and constitutional developments and lack adequate standards of privacy, due process, and risk assessment.
Forty percent of Oregonians with HIV need housing assistance, and a survey of Oregon service agency representatives cited the lack of affordable housing as the number-one barrier to stability for Oregonians living with HIV/AIDS. Critical issues were identified and recommendations developed to improve the ability of these systems to cooperatively meet the housing and services needs of people living with HIV/AIDS in Oregon. The obstacles that would prevent me from meeting the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS are:
Limited Awareness of Resources Dedicated to People Living with HIV/AIDS
Many potential housing and services partners lack awareness or accurate knowledge of existing resources dedicated to, or which can be used to serve, people living with HIV/AIDS, and that lack of awareness may limit partnerships.
The need to maintain client confidentiality restricts the ways that OHOP housing coordinators and other organizations and individuals can publicize their activities and resources. . Limited Staff Capacity and Knowledge HIV Care and Treatment staff may lack familiarity with aspects of partner systems, including affordable housing, and have limited resources and time to conduct marketing and outreach to potential partners and planning bodies. Discrimination adds to the daily struggles faced by the growing number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States – people who are predominantly poor and disproportionately African American or Latino.
Every agency’s biggest problems facing their clients involve meeting basic needs – coping with poverty, hunger, illiteracy, inadequate medical care, lack of transportation, and homelessness. In addition to those basic needs issues, people with HIV face a series of critical civil rights problems. Individuals living with HIV/AIDS need to know their rights and need the resources to advocate for themselves when their rights are threatened. They also need national legal organizations like the ACLU AIDS Project to enforce their civil rights and civil liberties through litigation, public education and legislative advocacy.
Develop simple, discreet material to publicize OHOP and related services and opportunities, and distribute it widely.
Present to current and potential partners, including faith-based and community-based grass roots organizations with information tailored to their interests.
Engage provider agency staff, clients, and other regional participants in publicizing the need, opportunity, and benefits of investing in housing and services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Focus attention on improving coordination with planning, data, and other elements of homeless systems.
Promote Shelter Care and other bonus projects through agreements to streamline or share sponsor administrative costs.
Conduct outreach and seek partnerships with landlords and property managers. Oregon Housing and Opportunities in Partnership (OHOP) Program Many people living with HIV/AIDS find themselves in need of housing assistance and support services at some point during their illness. As many as 60 percent of all persons living with HIV/AIDS report a lifetime experience of homelessness or housing instability.
Stable housing promotes improved health, sobriety or decreased use of alcohol and illegal drugs, and, for some people living with HIV/AIDS, a return to paid employment and productive social activities. The federal Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program provides funding, distributed by both formula and competition, dedicated to the housing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. This funding is not only necessary but critical to have the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS met adequately.