HIV programs will be receiving substantial funds under the new federal stimulus package to assist people affected by both HIV and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $2 trillion economic aid bill, approved by Congress and signed into law by Donald Trump last week, earmarks $155 million for HIV programs, the Washington Blade reports. This consists of $90 million for community-based HIV organizations funded under the Ryan White Act and $65 million for housing under the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program.
The money is needed because HIV organizations will have to adapt some of the ways they provide service in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, and some HIV-positive people are suffering economic consequences, such as lost jobs and possibly lost housing, due to the pandemic, health workers told the Blade. There also is the concern that poz people who are not on treatment are more susceptible to the virus.
Rachel Klein, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, outlined some needed organizational changes in a Blade interview. “People are trying to avoid sitting in public meeting rooms unnecessarily because they don’t want to be exposing themselves potentially to a new virus,” she said. “The programs are going to need to be able to be flexible, to find creative ways to ensure that people are able to still get the care that they need, and that’s going to come with some costs.”
Lauren Killelea, director of public policy of the National AIDS Housing Coalition, pointed out that people with unstable housing are less likely to be on treatment, heightening their risk for COVID-19. “(Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS) is uniquely situated to be a great, flexible resource for low-income people living with HIV during the coronavirus pandemic,” she told the Blade. “HOPWA can not only provide permanent housing but also short-term assistance as well as critical supports like access to transportation and nutrition services.”
LGBTQ and HIV activist groups and allies in Congress had campaigned for the inclusion of HIV funding in the bill.