This is the third part of a three-part blog where I’m sharing what I have learned from the 9th North American Housing and HIV Research Summit held in Washington DC on August 1st and 2nd. You can still have a read of part 1 and part 2 if you missed them.
An interesting question that I had not thought of came up at the Summit: “Do housing providers have a role in HIV viral suppression?” U.S. housing providers certainly seemed to think so and it makes sense given their federal program Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) dedicated to providing housing-related assistance to people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Ellen Wiewel shared New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Getting to 90, an initiative with a goal to increase viral suppression among HOPWA consumers (i.e. PLHIV who are benefiting from the HOPWA program) of their participating housing providers to greater or equal to 90%. The initiative asked housing providers to enter the viral load information of their HOPWA consumers (with their consent), using an electronic software called eCOMPAS, and the data entered here was matched to NYC’s HIV surveillance data. Both the NYC and housing providers benefited – NYC gained information on factors associated with non-suppression; housing providers received quarterly updates and were able to better support those unsuppressed HOPWA consumers. As a result of this initiative, PLHIV (utilizing participating agencies’ services) who are engaged in care increased from 88% to 95% and who are virally suppressed increased from 73% to 82% over 15 months. Housing providers are uniquely positioned to link PLHIV to care and promote viral suppression.
Perhaps we should think about how Canada can better integrate housing providers to share some of the responsibilities around supporting their clients in viral suppression and also how to evaluate the current efforts being made in this area.
The Summit also highlighted the need for Canada to renew our national HIV strategy. The renewed strategy must include housing and other structural factors, and reflect most recent scientific evidence, such as Undetectable = Untransmittable.
In this three-part blog, I shared some of the highlights of my learning from the Summit. Of course there is so much more I have learned and noted, and I hope to continue sharing as we go along. One upcoming opportunity is PAN’s webinar Opportunities and Challenges in HIV and Housing: New & Continued Learning from Positive Living Positive Homes (PLPH) to be held on October 2nd. You can register online here!
I will close with sharing some resources I learned about at the Summit that you might find helpful:
1. Synthesized HIV/AIDS Research Evidence (SHARE) by Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN): this user-friendly, up-to-date repository of HIV-related systematic reviews makes high quality research accessible. It’s a great resource that can help you in many areas of your work, including program development, providing evidence in grant/proposal writing, literature review, etc. Make sure to check out the “Tips” section and if you still need help (e.g. having trouble finding an article), please contact OHTN’s Knowledge Synthesis Analyst, Michelle Camilleri at [email protected]. Michelle can also help with rapid scoping reviews.
2. The Undetectables Program: “You don’t need superpowers to fight HIV. Heroes know it’s the fight that makes them stronger for themselves and their community.” Started as a pilot in 2014 in NYC, this program is now the one of the most prominent HIV public health interventions that helps support any organization committed to fighting HIV/AIDS in increasing viral suppression among their clients. They have some really cool and fun visually-engaging social marketing materials that you can access even if you are not implementing the Undetectables program!
Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
Please contact Mona Lee, PAN’s Evaluation Manager at [email protected].