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November 13, 2009

NY Activists Urge State to Expand AIDS Services to Those With HIV but Not Ill

New York City–based AIDS service organization Housing Works staged a demonstration during a November 12 public meeting of the New York State AIDS Advisory Council. At issue is expanding state aid from those who are “HIV ill” to those who are “HIV positive.”

Currently, HIV-positive New Yorkers may be eligible for state supportive services only once they have an “HIV illness” (in other words, an AIDS-defining illness); those who are HIV positive but without an illness are not eligible. Housing Works activists urged lawmakers, including Governor David Paterson, to end that distinction in the state health department. The action was part of Housing Works’ ongoing Change the Definition campaign.

“The expansion of this definition would allow people who are in New York City and New York State to receive housing and other services earlier so they don’t have to wait until they get HIV ill or have full-blown AIDS,” said Terri Smith-Caronia, Housing Works’ vice president for New York advocacy and organizing. “This is a simple regulatory change that the department of heath can make in a minute with the stroke of a pen. It is not legislative; it is an outdated definition. Granted, people are living longer, but there is no reason for them to wait for them to get sick or make them get sick, so they now have to choose between getting housed or seeing their doctor for medical attention.”

Another protester at the meeting was Housing Works case manager Jessica Hoover, who said she has been forced to turn down HIV-positive clients seeking support services because they did not have AIDS-defining illnesses.

“I met with a 19-year-old born with HIV who was kicked out of her home by her family,” Hoover told council chairperson Sandra Ruiz Butter. “She comes to me and says ‘I’m homeless.’ I say, ‘I’m sorry. You’re just not sick enough for me to help you.'”

Watch POZ’s video coverage of the demonstration:

Search: Housing Works, New York, David Paterson, New York State AIDS Advisory Council, HIV illness, AIDS-defining illness, Change the Definition

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