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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW YORK: New York Policymakers Grilled over HIV/AIDS Housing Help
Cristian Salazar
February 10, 2012
Associated Press (02.08.12) - Friday, February 10, 2012

New York City Council members on Wednesday questioned policymakers about a rule that changed eligibility criteria for clients seeking housing assistance through the HIV/AIDS Services Administration. Under the policy, which took effect in the fall, HASA clients have to be screened for substance abuse and accept treatment or lose eligibility for some housing services. No one would be denied shelter, HASA officials said, but that did not assuage some council members' fears.

Adherence to substance abuse treatment would be one factor in assessing eligibility, Jacqueline Dudley, HASA's deputy commissioner, told the council's general welfare committee before a packed hearing. Some 650 HASA clients have been referred for treatment under the policy and about half have complied, a HASA spokesperson said.

"Clients who are not compliant will be offered alternative housing," where on-site counselors can work with them on substance abuse, Dudley said. Such housing is at 90 percent capacity, she said.

"I believe you're punishing people, and in some ways pushing them away at the very moment when you should actually be bringing them closer," said council member Jimmy Van Bramer.

Housing should not be used as leverage for substance abuse treatment, said advocates and researchers. In studies, stable housing has been associated with HIV treatment adherence, reduced risk behaviors, and obtaining medical care, they said.

"They are making drug treatment the highest priority, above adherence to HIV antiviral medications, above survival," said Ginny Shubert, a public policy researcher and consultant. "It makes no sense."