AIDS 2012, the international AIDS conference, finishes is week-long run in Washington, D.C. today. Held in the United States for the first time in 22 years, the conference covers the broad range of clinical and epidemiological science, healthcare, policy, and advocacy issues related to HIV/AIDS.
The conference has provided the opportunity for serious conversation and reflection on AIDS in the United States. It also puts the spotlight on Washington, D.C.’s HIV infection rate, which is higher than that of many African countries, which are so often the focus of attention on the global AIDS epidemic.
America’s capital city has many of the factors that contribute to poor health outcomes generally. The poverty rate in D.C. is higher than that of any state in the U.S. Those D.C. residents working low-wage, part-time jobs are surely among those lacking healthcare access. According to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, lack of access to healthcare among some Americans is a contributing factor to our national AIDS epidemic.
Affordable housing is an issue as well. Stable, affordable housing improves the lives of lower income people, and is especially important for anyone with significant illness. According to the National AIDS Housing Coalition, “stable, affordable housing offers the best opportunity for persons living with HIV/AIDS to access drug therapies and treatments and supportive services that will enhance the quality of life for themselves and their families.” Unfortunately, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is the tenth most expensive rental housing market in the country. With a Housing Wage of $28.96, D.C. is a difficult place for anyone to find affordable housing, much less those with the lowest incomes.
Solutions exist. On Saturday, AIDS housing leaders held a pre-conference HIV & Housing Summit to address the human right to housing, the connection between housing and healthcare, housing issues of individuals exiting incarceration and more. In the United States, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program provides communities with funding to address the housing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
Did you attend AIDS 2012? What should the U.S. do to end the HIV epidemic? What is the impact of housing on the health of people in your life? Talk about it with us in the comments.