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Recent study relates health status and housing for HIV-positive young women

A recent research paper from the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health points out that health is based on more than proper eating and exercise. Access to adequate housing also plays an important role in determining the status of an individual’s health.

Lead author on the paper is Alison Scott, assistant professor of community health and health behavior at Georgia Southern University. Titled ‘HIV and Housing Assistance in Four U.S. Cities: Variations in Local Experience,” the research looked at women ages 18-24 being cared for at HIV clinics focusing on treatment of younger patients. The study, part of Scott’s doctoral research, is one piece of a larger study conducted by Johns Hopkins and the Adolescent Trials Network (ATN) on helping patients adhere to HIV medications. The research paper is included in a special issue of the journal Aids and Behavior that examines the links between HIV and housing.

For this paper, researchers interviewed women with HIV who lived in New York, New Orleans, Miami, and Chicago, looking at the ‘housing context” of each city. Participants also provided information about their annual monthly budgets.

‘In all four cities we found that housing assistance, or the lack of it, had great ramifications for how well HIV-positive women engaged the health care system,” said Scott. ‘Women who did not receive housing assistance moved frequently, often in and out of homelessness. Women who received long-term housing assistance, although still struggling financially, had a stable base from which to engage in HIV care.”

Of the study participants, those living in New York had full access to rent assistance, but in Miami, only one woman of the fifteen interviewed received rent assistance. Aid in Miami is available through the city’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) only for those HIV-positive people who demonstrate an AIDS diagnosis. One Miami woman in the study admitted to neglecting her health so that her T-cell count would go down, thereby moving her to an AIDS diagnosis and qualifying her for housing assistance.

‘This study illustrates the importance of viewing the connection between housing and HIV in the context of local delivery of housing assistance,” said Scott. ‘We need to ask a variety of questions about services, eligibility requirements, structure and duration of subsidy, and housing costs in the context of already limited household budgets.”

Editors: Dr. Scott can be reached for interviews at 912-681-5079.

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