Homeless youth are particularly vulnerable to contracting HIV. Confronted with immediate needs and few resources at their disposal, young people are often dependent on survival strategies that place them at increased risk such as substance abuse and survival sex – trading sex for food, money, or a place to sleep. Without access to health care, these youth are often unaware of their HIV status or unable to adhere to drug treatment plans.
In honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day the California Homeless Youth Project would like to announce the release of our latest issue brief, HIV & Youth Homelessness: Housing as Health Care. This brief highlights ways in which addressing housing instability could decrease HIV infection rates among homeless youth by providing an environment to address health care needs, improve mental and physical health, and decrease engagement in HIV-risk behaviors.
(Photo courtesy of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Currently, California ranks second in the nation in cumulative AIDS cases. Sixty percent of all persons living with HIV/AIDS report homelessness or housing instability at some point throughout the course of their lives. This lack of housing and health care access has been linked with poverty, inequality, and HIV infection among homeless youth and other marginalized populations.
Project Director Shahera Hyatt had this to say about the findings in the brief, “Though HIV rates have remained relatively stable over the last five years, certain populations are at increased risk – particularly youth of color and gay and transgender youth, all of whom are more likely to experience homelessness than their white or heterosexual peers. This is an issue that requires an urgent, wholistic response from policymakers at all levels.”
Among other things, this brief recommends moving beyond individual-level HIV prevention strategies to structural and environmental interventions, including legal reforms, that facilitate HIV prevention in a way that addresses economic disparities and housing instability among youth.