The South holds the highest rates of people living with HIV and new diagnoses of HIV/AIDS than any other U.S. region. In light of pending decisions at the federal level regarding housing assistance programs, Medicaid, and establishing HIV/AIDS as a national priority, Living Room will host Taste of Life 2017 to ensure housing services remain available for as many people living with HIV/AIDS as possible and that Georgia continues its decline in new HIV diagnoses.
About Taste of Life: Taste of Life 2017 is a food and wine tasting event to help house people living with HIV/AIDS. Atlanta ranks fifth among metropolitan cities in the nation with the highest new HIV diagnoses, and, without housing, staying healthy is impossible, especially for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Hosted at Atlanta’s Westside Cultural Arts Center on 10th street, this seventh annual soiree includes tastings of local craft beers, wines from around the world, and bites from some of Atlanta’s most creative and delicious chefs and restaurateurs. Be part of the solution by ensuring that no person living with HIV/AIDS faces homelessness alone.
Attend Taste of Life 2017
Why Taste of Life Should Matter to You.
HIV/AIDS Prevalence heat map based on 2014 data (aidsvu.org)
Georgia’s HIV Crisis
Although 37 percent of the country’s population resides in the South, Southern states make up 44 percent of all people living with HIV in the US. Additionally, Southern metropolitan areas make up 21 of the 25 areas with the highest prevalence among gay, bisexual men.
These numbers hit close to home for Georgia, which ranks third highest in new HIV diagnoses in the country and whose residents have a 1 in 51 chance of contracting HIV in their lifetime. The national average is 1 in 99. Atlanta is fifth highest in HIV diagnoses of all metropolitan areas in the nation.
The Disparities of HIV
HIV in Georgia disproportionally affects communities of color, gay and bisexual men, and low-income households. For example, African American people make up 30 percent of the overall state population but represent 69 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the Georgia. The rate of African American males living with HIV is 5.8 times higher than white males. Atlanta has the highest rate of HIV diagnoses of African American males of all metropolitan areas in the nation.
Compare this to the State HIV Prevention Progress Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which shows that in terms of increasing HIV testing across four ethnic/racial categories (e.g., black, white, and Hispanic/Latinx, and other) as a way to reduce health inequities, Georgia only met its three-year benchmark in 2015 for the white population.
Though lesser known today as an exclusively gay disease—as were perceptions during the initial outbreak—69 percent of all people living with HIV in the country are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (MSM). For perspective, current conservative estimates suggest that about 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as a sexual minority—though solid data is lacking. This means a small fraction of the population currently represents 69 percent of all HIV diagnoses.
Even still, the CDC points to poverty as the most significant factor contributing to HIV health inequities, citing that heterosexual men and women in 23 major U.S. cities living below the poverty line are twice as likely to contract HIV than those living above it.
Current Inattention to HIV/AIDS and Housing
With recent troubles in the presidential HIV/AIDS Advisory Board, proposed cuts to Housing Opportunities for Persons Living with AIDS (HOPWA), and the future of Medicaid pending under the current proposed healthcare bill, it remains unclear to what extent the Georgia’s HIV crisis will worsen.
In the middle of June, a third of President Trump’s HIV/AIDS Advisory Board resigned after stating “The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.”
Despite naming the “tremendous progress that has been made” in HIV/AIDS treatment and assistance, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson defended a 7 percent cut to HOPWA—a program on which Living Room heavily relies. 390,000 people are currently eligible for assistance, and, as it stands, HOPWA can currently serve only 60,000 or 15 percent before the proposed cut.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks at the budget hearing for Department of Housing of Urban Development on June 8, 2017
Finally, the current version of the Senate healthcare bill would reduce Medicaid spending by a total $772 billion over the next decade. Medicaid, a program expanded under the Affordable Care Act, saw a significant nationwide increase of coverage for people living with HIV/AIDS, from 36 percent 2012 to 42% in 2014. Georgia leaders chose not expand Medicaid for the state.
What Does This Have to Do with an Event?
Making Progress Together
It’s important to note that efforts to address HIV/AIDS and housing issues in Georgia are, in fact, working. Between 2014 and 2015, Georgia saw a 16.5 percent drop in overall homelessness, resting 4 points under the national average. New HIV infection rates in Georgia remain higher than national averages, but declined by 6 percent from 2008 to 2014.
If we fail to see the progress that’s been made as the result of a comprehensive network of public officials, healthcare professionals, and nonprofit organizations like Living Room who have prioritized HIV/AIDS and housing issues, we not only gamble the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS today but risk moving our city, state, and country back decades in terms of preventable infection rates.
Until then, we can’t afford to ignore HIV/AIDS or reduce our efforts against it.
Only together can we continue to move forward to the day when there are no new HIV infections or a cure for the disease is found. Until then, we can’t afford to ignore HIV/AIDS or reduce our efforts against it. For this reason, Living Room will host Taste of Life on August 19 to ensure housing services remain available for as many people living with HIV/AIDS as possible and that Georgia continues its decline in new HIV diagnoses.
Attend Taste of Life 2017
About Living Room: Living Room works to end homelessness for people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia by providing housing support. Serving as Atlanta’s centralized intake and housing information and referral agency, Living Room helps over 1,500 individuals and families each year.
Living Room began in 1995, as a part of Trinity Community Ministries, to assist people living with HIV/AIDS find stable, affordable housing, and became an independent 501c3 organization in 1999. Living Room serves both the 29-county Atlanta metropolitan area and 11 counties in the rural Northwest Georgia region surrounding Rome and Dalton. Over 82 percent of Living Room’s clients are defined as “extremely low income,” so finding and maintaining affordable housing is essential to preventing homelessness.
Recognizing housing as a fundamental right and key component of living with dignity, Living Room works to enable individuals and their families to find and maintain affordable housing.