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Study links housing to care sought by HIV patients

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POSTED: October 4, 2007 5:04 a.m.
An assistant professor at Georgia Southern University’s Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health is among a group of national researchers who link adequate housing to the health and care of people living with the human immunodeficiency virus.
In a recent study of HIV-positive women, GSU assistant professor of community health and health behavior Dr. Alison Scott found that access to housing assistance programs had a direct affect on the amount of healthcare services participants sought and received in four major cities.
Working with researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, she interviewed women between the ages of 18 and 24 being cared for at HIV clinics focused on treating young patients in New York City, New Orleans, Miami and Chicago to examine the “housing context” of each city.
“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,” Scott said. “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.”
Based on the findings recently published by the professor and her research partners in a paper titled “HIV and Housing Assistance in Four U.S. Cities: Variations in Local Experience,” participants living in New York City had full access to rent assistance, while women in Miami had difficulty getting help.
Of the 15 Miami research participants, only one woman received assistance through the city’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, after she purposely neglected her health to lower her T-cell count to receive an AIDS diagnosis, which made her eligible for the program.
Scott, lead author of the essay, said these latest developments in the study of housing and HIV are cause for continued research and a push for policy change.
“This study illustrates the importance of viewing the connection between housing and HIV in the context of local delivery of housing assistance,” she said. “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.”
Part of Scott’s doctoral research at Johns Hopkins, the study is one piece of a larger study conducted by the university and the Adolescent Trails Network on helping patients adhere to HIV medications.
The research paper is included in a special issue of the journal Aids and Behavior, which explores the links between HIV and housing.
 

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