National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7 recognizes the positive impact and need for HIV education, testing, community involvement, and treatment.
Many Floridians, especially those in the Black community, are having to cope with their HIV/AIDS status. Not only do individuals have to accept their HIV status, but they may have to deal with the stigma of having the disease. Having a stable living environment plays a major role in the health of people, especially those with HIV/AIDS.
For more than 20 years, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program has been providing stable living environments, as well as access to treatment and health care support for persons with HIV/AIDS. HOPWA is a federally-funded initiative that helps people maintain stable housing and receive special services — which can all lead to better health.
In 2019, there were approximately 134,900 people living with HIV in Florida, 116,689 of whom were diagnosed. Of the 4,584 Floridians who received a new HIV diagnosis in 2019, 38 percent were Black. HIV/AIDS was the ninth leading cause of death, having claimed 644 lives. In the midst of the HIV epidemic, the HOPWA program connects people to the resources they need in order to live long, healthy lives, regardless of their HIV status.
In Florida, 11 regional agencies and six cities deliver HOPWA-funded housing services. These providers can help individuals get permanent housing placement; short-term rent, mortgage and utility assistance; rental assistant; and other support services to assist with everyday life. Each provider offers different services and a conversation with the local HOPWA provider agency is the best way to find out what they offer.
According to the City of Jacksonville Housing and Community Development Division, more than $16 million in HOPWA funds have been allocated to the City of Jacksonville through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development since the program’s inception in 1994. HOPWA provides grants for housing, emergency assistance to prevent homelessness and supportive services for low-income persons and their families living with HIV/AIDS including: case management, referrals, group counseling and caregiver services.
Derek Robinson, a north Florida resident who has benefited from HOPWA stated, “There are a lot of people in our community without hope, and HOPWA is the hope for positive living.”
Find the list of HOPWA providers statewide by visiting, www.HousingforBetterHealth.com.
Florida is also a national leader in HIV testing and there are many ways to get tested. Visit KnowYourHIVStatus.com to order a free at-home test kit or to learn about local testing providers.