I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the 9th North American Housing and HIV Research Summit in Washington, DC, on August 1st and 2nd. Launched in 2005, the Summit is a collaboration between the U.S. National AIDS Housing Coalition (NAHC), the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN). The Summit is open for policy makers, researchers, service providers and people living with HIV (PLHIV) from all over North America to attend, and this makes the Summit a great opportunity to not only share and take research findings and advocacy strategies back to our own communities, but also to bridge the gap between research and policy to build evidence-based practices.
In this three-part blog, I will share what I have learned from the Summit and simultaneously highlight the similarities and differences in programs and policies between U.S. and Canada.
Let’s start with Canada. Although we only had one policy maker representative (to the best of my knowledge), Adam Vaughan – the Canadian Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Urban Affairs – he did a great job of providing a Canadian context. He acknowledged our colonial history and its ongoing impact on the disproportionate representation of Indigenous peoples in HIV rates and unstable housing situations. He also spoke to Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion plan that puts federal government back at the table for social housing investment. By the end of his keynote speech, non-Canadians were envious of Canada; non-Canadians wanted to move to Canada.
On the flip side, U.S. has something Canada does not have: two federal programs for PLHIV. Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides HIV-related health services for uninsured and underinsured PLHIV. The Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) is dedicated to the housing needs of PLHIV, including supporting the access to and maintaining affordable housing for PLHIV. U.S. is also at a critical time point – Act Now End AIDS (ANEA), a national coalition leading the community-led initiative Ending the Epidemic (EtE) is soliciting community input across the country to develop a national EtE plan. They plan to bring this to the federal government to ensure meaningful input from the most affected communities is reflected in the federal government’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S.
The key message of the Summit was loud and clear: structural and intersectional factors need to be addressed to effectively respond to HIV and related injustices and inequities. And critical ingredients to creating a successful environment that enable us to address those structural and intersectional factors like housing, include: political will, good leaders who work in human rights-based approach (including Housing First), and persistent, collaborative and effective advocacy.
* Part 2
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Please contact Mona Lee, PAN’s Evaluation Manager at [email protected].