Bailey House Blog

Information and insight.

Bailey House CEO and leading activist, Gina Quattrochi, sheds light on the latest issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Guest blog post by Joseph Neese

Posted on 04/11/2014 at 4:43 pm
Joseph Neese and Gina Quattrochi at the 2014 Bailey House Gala & Auction

Joseph Neese and Gina Quattrochi at the 2014 Bailey House Gala & Auction

I’ll never forget October 2009. I had just returned to campus at Boston College following several months abroad in Argentina. My boyfriend from that time was making the ages-old pilgrimage to Machu Picchu – now one of the ten wonders of the world. The immense joy of that moment was instantly sapped when, days later, I received the news: he was HIV-positive.

Being more than 8,000 miles away and on the receiving end of the phone unable to give him a hug was one of the most painful moments I’ve ever experienced. I had read my friend Larry Kramer’s masterworks, Faggots and The Normal Heart, and I was well-versed in my history of the plague that demolished his generation. But it wasn’t until that very moment, when someone my own age was diagnosed with HIV, that I felt the weight of a world torn apart by HIV and AIDS.

Frank’s image could have filled the pages of any magazine. He was young and just beginning his career in government. It broke my heart knowing that this diagnosis was preventable. An act of love with a trusted partner changed his life in an instant. 

At the time, Frank would have been representative of the hardest-hit population by HIV today in America: young, non-white men. To put it into perspective, 87 percent of new HIV cases among men ages 13 to 24 are among men of color.

It begs the question, why isn’t this making front page headlines? Sadly, it seems that in 2014, stigma remains rampant in America. The masses are caring less and less about a disease whose demographics are increasingly focused on people of color, people struggling with homelessness and poverty, and other marginalized populations. We constantly envision an “HIV and AIDS free world.” But if transmission rates continue to rise among youth, how is this possible?

These alarming statistics will only be reversed if we take the time to engage with youth in real ways. The abstinence-only education model failed our nation, as double-digit increases in youth HIV transmission rates make clear. To no surprise, young people have and always will have sex, and realistic sex education is necessary. However, while we can talk about behavioral issues all that we want, attitude adjustment and behavioral modification alone are incomplete and ineffective.

Structural drivers and social determinants, such as poverty, homelessness, racism, lack of access to healthcare and trauma and intimate partner violence  are better predictors of the epidemic. We need to address these issues among our youth in addition to teaching them about safe sex. If we encourage youth to think about HIV/AIDS as part of a larger picture of the disparities that exist in the U.S., we will reach them in more meaningful ways than just letting them know safe sex is a good idea.

After all, why is the HIV rate higher among youth of color? Youth of color are at a higher risk for HIV even when they have fewer “risk behaviors” than white youth simply because they are more likely to be impacted by these structural barriers than white youth.

Bailey House reaches out to marginalized youth through our now expanding STARS (Success Through Accessing Rental Assistance and Support) program, the largest supportive housing program for HIV-positive youth in New York City. STARS provides stable housing to 50 formerly homeless young people, many of them LGBTQ, who are living with HIV/AIDS and struggling  to overcome mental illness and/or substance abuse. We connect each individual to life-saving medical care and independent living skills training, transforming  vulnerable people in crisis into stable, safe and thriving adults.

But the work doesn’t stop inside Bailey House. An HIV and AIDS-free generation won’t be realized if we aren’t recruiting a new contingent of activists, leaders and philanthropists to carry on the work my late uncle Rodger McFarlane began when he took the helm of Gay Men’s Health Crisis at a mere 27 years old.

The future starts with my generation, and that’s why I’m working with our CEO Gina Quattrochi to better include youth and young adults in the current HIV/AIDS narrative in this country. It’s time for my peers to have a more open and engaged dialogue about some of the topics we tackle on a daily basis at Bailey House: homelessness, poverty, mental health. It’s only through increased communication that the walls of stigma can truly be broken.

I believe I will see a world without HIV and AIDS in my lifetime, and I look forward to a day where National HIV and AIDS Awareness Day will be something for the history books. Small steps toward this goal can be made on an individual level. The more we empower youth, the more they will make caring decisions in regards to their health and the health of their communities. Along those lines, I leave you with these words of wisdom from the Jesuit theologian Pedro Arrupe:

“Nothing is more practical than … falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Joseph Neese is an LGBT activist and journalist, who is on the Board of Directors of Bailey House and The Tyler Clementi Foundation, where he works specifically with issues affecting youth and young adults. Joseph works in Human Resources for the NBCUniversal News Group, supporting NBC News, msnbc and CNBC. He is the nephew of the late LGBT and HIV/AIDS trailblazer Rodger McFarlane.

“Women Hold Up Half the Sky” Except in HIV/AIDS policy, care, prevention and funding!

Posted on 03/10/2014 at 1:56 pm

women hold up half the sky nat women and girls HIV AIDS awareness day 2014

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “Women hold up half the sky”. In 2014, I’d add, “Except in HIV/AIDS policy, prevention, strategies and care.” Women are not, as many people like to say, the “new face of AIDS”. For over 32 years, women, especially black women and Latinas, have been infected with the HIV virus and many have transitioned to an AIDS diagnosis. But because of racism, sexism, socio-economic status, family responsibilities and the war against women’s reproductive health, many have been left behind.

Statistics from a 2010 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report show that while there has been some decrease in new infections among women, they continue to be infected. “New HIV infections among women are primarily attributed to heterosexual contact (84% in 2010) or injection drug use (16% in 2010). Women accounted for 20% of estimated new HIV infections in 2010 and 24% of those living with HIV infection in 2009.” The CDC website contains a graphic on the page with its report, which states “Gay and bisexual men of all races are most severely affected by AIDS” – given that AIDS is the leading cause of death of young black women, it’s a shocking and insensitive statement by the leading government agency responsible for shaping HIV prevention strategy. Tragically it reflects a growing lack of concern about HIV-positive women and women affected by HIV/AIDS.

HIV-positive women and women affected by HIV/AIDS have been left behind in HIV/AIDS policy, prevention care and funding. The President’s 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy is silent regarding issues affecting women. Last week in the President’s 2015 budget, Ryan White Part D, one of the key sources of funding for programs for HIV-positive women and their families, was eliminated and folded into a broader category. A number of organizations in NYC and across the nation will lose their Ryan White Part D funds at a very critical time as the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Redesign are changing the way women’s reproductive healthcare will be provided. Who will be left to help HIV-positive women navigate these changes?

As the CDC and pharmaceutical companies roll out promising new bio-medical prevention strategies, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, which has to be taken daily by the HIV-negative partner) and PeP (Post-exposure prophylaxis, often called the HIV “morning after” pill) women’s reproductive health is a mere footnote. In the recent “Partners” study, which demonstrates success of a PrEP drug, Truvada, in heterosexual and gay male couples where one partners is HIV-negative, women represented only 38% of the study participants. While there were some findings of lower efficacy in women, the researchers considered it statistically insignificant.

In contrast, the 2010 FEM-PrEP study, which was intended to measure the efficacy of PrEP for HIV-negative women, was stopped because the company monitoring the results determined that “it was highly unlikely that any protective effect of Truvada that might emerge would be enough to demonstrate a statistically significant benefit overall.” One of the reasons given was that HIV-negative women may be less adherent because of side effects, which include nausea and “an unexpected” drug interaction with women’s contraception which led to lower levels of hormones and less protection against unwanted pregnancy.

These findings are very disturbing when you consider that women often cannot negotiate “safer sex” for a whole host of reasons, like intimate partner violence, trauma, poverty, homelessness, survival sex and lack of access to condoms.  Even in the Partners study many women reported longer periods of “condomless sex” than their male counterparts — 3.5 years as compared with the 2.5 years reported by heterosexual men and 1.5 years by the gay men in the study.

Women living with HIV/AIDS and women affected by AIDS are an endangered group. Without polices, prevention strategies and care that focus on the unique needs of women including their biochemistry, reproductive health, emotional well-being, family and partner status, geography, and  socio-economic status, the HIV/AIDS epidemic will continue to be severe for them and their families. Isn’t it time for national HIV/AIDS policy, care and funding to recognize that women must be counted and heard?

Bailey House will continue to be in the vanguard of advocating for HIV-positive women and women affected by HIV/AIDS as a member of the steering committee of the “30 for 30” campaign. Together with HIV-positive women activists from around the nation as well as many organizations that serve women, we will fight to get and keep women on the national HIV/AIDS agenda and in national healthcare policy. We won’t stop until policy and practice acknowledge the unique needs of women and begin to count them in. If, as the Chinese proverb says, “women hold up half the sky,” then the sky will fall without us.

 

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James Lister’s 30% Story

Posted on 02/24/2014 at 4:36 pm
Gina speaking at a press conference for the 30% rent cap. Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez is to her right, and she is surrounded by members of VOCAL-NY.

Gina speaking at a press conference for the 30% rent cap.

Last week Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio reached an agreement that will have far-reaching effects on low-income New Yorkers living with AIDS who qualify to receive rent assistance from the City.  It reverses a decade-long injustice that was created by the Giuliani Administration and continued through Mayor Bloomberg’s time.

In federally subsidized housing or rental assistance programs, low-income tenants are required to pay 30% of their income (usually from SSI or SSD) as rent. Ten years ago, the Giuliani administration found a loophole and began to take up to 70% of the disability income of people living with HIV/AIDS, leaving most with $330 a month or $10.84 a day to pay for everything else – groceries, clothing, transportation, laundry, household and personal hygiene items and all the other things necessary for day-to-day living.

This issue immediately became the rallying point for many people in the HIV/AIDS community. Led by VOCAL-NY and others, activists sprang into action getting support from NYS legislators led by Senator Tom Duane, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and City Council members led by former Speaker Christine Quinn, to pass a bill that established a 30% rent cap. The community was jubilant.

I was at the victory party celebrating the win when former Governor Patterson’s staff called to say that despite all the work, he vetoed the bill after pressure from the billionaire Mayor Bloomberg. Celebration quickly turned into despair. It was a moment that I will never forget. In 2010, I participated in civil disobedience along with 17 other colleagues including former Senator Tom Duane, Charles King of Housing Works, and Kimberly Smith of Harlem United and others to protest Governor Patterson’s veto. While our arrests were largely symbolic, it sent a message that we were not going to stop until this terrible social injustice was reversed.

James W. Lister, a former business owner, is one of the people directly affected by the lack of a rent cap. I invited him to share his story. James worked for 35 years before becoming disabled from complications of AIDS. He reluctantly applied for disability and, after a very humiliating process, was finally awarded approximately $1060 per month in disability benefits – a system he had contributed to all of his adult life.  While $1060 monthly is very little in NYC, he knew he could survive and pay the rent on the apartment he has lived in since 1979. Then the City dropped the bomb that would change James’ life. They budgeted him from $1060 to $330 monthly – less than $11 per day.

James shared this with us:

I decided, by the time my status had progressed to full-blown AIDS and I had lost over 200 friends, acquaintances, and intimates, I would not die before my parents.  Given the parameters of my hard-earned entitlement of $10.84 day, I stopped every aspect of living except for the necessities: bath soap, shampoo, laundry soap, fabric softener, the cost for washers and dryers, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouth wash, dental floss, dish sponges, dish washing soap, light bulbs, telephone, cable TV, internet, transportation to (the increasing list of) doctors’ appointments, co-pays and deductibles for doctors and tests and for (the increasing number of) prescription medications.  I was not going to die or become homeless. Before AIDS I had saved up for vacation, now it was shoes.

Unfortunately, sacrificing everything in my life, including haircuts, shaving, deodorant, new sheets and towels when they wear through, did not go far enough and I was forced to collect bottles and cans for cash to survive. I had already started wearing clothes from friends who had died.

I constantly lived in the very unhealthy state both from AIDS and the relentless fear I could fall behind in rent due to an emergency expense. I could not bear to lose the apartment that has been my home since July 1, 1979.

My medication regime had grown from three medications two and three times a day, to 30 medications one and two times a day, plus a weekly injection.  There are two and a half shelves in my kitchen cabinets that are devoted to managing my medications.  I knew I couldn’t do this if I was homeless.

But things got worse. My Mother died on April 4, 2009 in California. I could not afford the plane fare to attend her funeral or bury her. My Father died on January 30, 2011.  I could not bury him either.

Being forced by the City to pay more than 70% of my disability robbed me of so much – things that most of us take for granted, like the ability to buy a newspaper or meet a friend for dinner, the ability to buy new pants when the old ones wear out or stock up on groceries when bad weather is predicted – but when it took away my ability to properly mourn the death of my parents, that was the final straw.

I’ve worked alongside VOCAL-NY, Bailey House, Housing Works, GMHC and other groups to demand that the city and state cease taking a lion’s share of the benefits I earned as a taxpayer for so many years. If 30% was the standard in most federally subsidized programs around the nation, why did NYC have the right to be so greedy and lawless? I never asked for them for anything more than I was entitled to by law. This week’s victory is welcome but bittersweet. I’ve lost so much, it will take time to reconcile how much I and others have suffered.

What’s next? Getting the 30% rent cap has consumed much of my life for over a decade. While I look forward to the first time my income goes from $330 a month to $927, I know that there’s still a lot to fight for. Housing is key to stopping the epidemic. The homeless are 10 times more likely to become infected. Stable housing is vital to helping those of us who are already infected to have access to care, manage our medications, and get mental health and other services so that we can live whatever time we have to the fullest.

Already I can start to dream of the future – something I never let myself do before when I was constantly pennies away from homelessness and complete poverty every day. Now I can let myself plan to be there when my nephew Joe, who is in 5th grade, graduates from college. I wasn’t able to bury my parents but I’m damn sure I will be there to see and celebrate the youngest generation of my family. And when I get my first check for $927, I may even go to California to visit my parents’ grave.

 

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We need to get tougher on the system, not the user.

Posted on 02/06/2014 at 11:46 am

philip-seymour-hoffman

Over the weekend, we lost yet another brilliant actor — Philip Seymour Hoffman, who graced stage, film and TV with his incredible performances. He, like Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith and others, met his end through what now seems like a lethal combination of drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Five years ago overdoses from prescription drugs, heroin and other substances became the leading cause of accidental death in America. Many ERs here and around the nation report an exponential increase in overdose related admissions, particularly for young adults, including those living in suburban communities.

It’s time to act. Let’s decriminalize drug use – let’s remove the stigma of “addiction” and call it what it is: a terrible disease suffered by a wide range of people, often caused by trauma. Let’s ensure that drug users have access to clean syringes, harm reduction and mental health services. That would be a start.

Did you know that with the exception of New York State and a couple of other jurisdictions, there are no syringe exchange programs because Federal money cannot be used to fund them? Once again ideology trumps public health. Despite decades of research showing that this intervention has reduced HIV incidence among drug users by as much as 85%, critics have argued that syringe exchange encourages drug use. Research shows that it does not.

Significant public health benefits have resulted from syringe exchange because programs not only distribute syringes but also pick up used ones and get them off the street. Syringe exchange is an outreach tool to get active users into all types of care – medical, mental health and substance abuse treatment, just to name a few.

We need to get tougher on the system, not the user. Currently many mental health providers won’t see a patient who is actively using. Isn’t that like an oncologist refusing to see someone because they have cancer? If Philip Seymour Hoffman had walked into a mental health clinic last Saturday afternoon and shared that he had just used heroin, should he have been turned away?

We also need to start having honest discussions with our kids. Why isn’t overdose prevention taught in health classes? Will teaching how to prevent a death encourage drug use? I doubt it. Wouldn’t you rather have a young adult, armed with overdoes prevention knowledge and tools, at a party where young people – maybe your daughter, son, grandchild, niece or nephew – were doing drugs, rather than stay in denial about the danger they may be in?

None of this will bring back Philip Seymour Hoffman or Amy Winehouse or Heath Ledger or the countless others who have died this way, but put into practice, it could save lives in the future. Overdose is fast becoming a new epidemic and public health crisis.  There is a heroin overdose prevention bill advancing in the New York State Senate currently, but what about the Federal level? How many more celebrities and ordinary citizens dying of drug overdose will it take to move us forward?

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When seeing a doctor is not enough

Posted on 01/10/2014 at 4:07 pm

bartak brick wall
Recently Kaiser Health News published a story about the concerns some people living with HIV/AIDS have about Obamacare.  As the Affordable Care Act is implemented, many have questions about how current insurance coverage may be affected and whether funding streams like the Ryan White Care Act will survive.

These are all very appropriate concerns as the nation rolls out the most dramatic change in healthcare delivery since the 1980s’ introduction of a Medicare payment system that based reimbursement on algorithms by patient’s principal diagnosis, ICD diagnoses, gender, age, treatment procedure, discharge status and the presence of complications or co-morbidities. While the “Diagnostically Related Groups,” as this system was called, resulted in many positive outcomes, there were also cases where seriously ill stroke patients were sent home a day after admission, sometimes before they fully recovered, because the hospital could no longer get paid for a typical 4-5 day stay. Unintended kinks in new systems are not all that uncommon.

Since we have 31 years of experience working with low-income people living with HIV/AIDS, we have our own views on all of this.  We strongly believe that as this revolution in healthcare unfolds, people living with HIV/AIDS and all other chronic illnesses need safety net services and advocacy that will ensure continued care access and positive health outcomes.  As one man interviewed in the Kaiser article stated: “”My medical is very well-managed,” said Land, an insurance adjuster before he retired in 1993 because of his illness. “But I also need that wrap-around care that helps me live every day. In my 15 minutes with the doctor…I am not going to get that.”” We couldn’t agree more.

Comprehensive care including stable housing, mental health services, food and healthcare coordination are the foundation for surviving and thriving.  Bailey House built this model in the early epidemic because it made sense. Now after 31 years we have lots of data to prove it. Let’s make sure that as the nation seeks to cut costs, it doesn’t disassemble what makes the rest work.

To read the full Kaiser News article, click here.

 

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If we housed Dasani…

Posted on 12/13/2013 at 11:44 am
ivory and jeffrey

A mother and son in our Family Program.

I was surprised how affected I was by The New York Times series on Dasani, the young girl growing up in a City “family” homeless shelter in Brooklyn. I say that because for 23 years I’ve seen my share of family tragedy and anguish resulting from poverty, homelessness, violence and dashed dreams. I thought I was immune to the grief.

I long to invite Dasani and her family to live in our family supportive housing*. They would have a lovely apartment with a full kitchen, their own bathroom and rooms for the kids. Their window would look out on a quiet, tree-lined street. They would have the luxury of a team of staff to support them – the kind of support you need when picking up the pieces of your life.

If Dasani was part of Bailey House she would receive homework help. She’d be invited to be part of a writing group with other kids who have become amazing poets. She and her siblings would go to museums and parks. Dasani would go to school in the neighborhood and know that if she needed help, Bailey House staff would be there.

If we housed Dasani and her family, she’d have a chance to be valedictorian of her class, like some of our kids. She’d probably go to college. She would have a future of promise and opportunity. She would soar!

If we housed Dasani and her family, the City would save thousands of dollars a year. Over their lifetime the savings would be hundreds of thousands. That could be invested in creating more homes for future Dasanis and their families.  More tragedy could be prevented.

It’s a tragedy that our leaders have yet to take bold steps to end family homelessness.  The Bloomberg administration made so many mistakes regarding homelessness and poverty that the system is beyond broken. It needs life support.

I hope for Dasani’s sake that Mayor-Elect De Blasio is thinking way outside the box. I hope he encourages public policy risk-taking.  Dasani and all of the children like her deserve our best thinking. They deserve us all rolling up our sleeves and making change that’s real.

*Bailey House provides supportive housing to families living with HIV/AIDS. There are more than 100 children like Dasani in our program. Here is a poem written by a child in our Family Program when she was 6 years old:

WHEN I RETURN AS A INVISIBLE PERSON

 I will help.

Will be good.

The hair will be

beautiful. I will walk

through walls easily.

I will be a

ghost.

Nobody will see me.

My invisible will

scream out loud how-

ever she want to.

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Our Heroes

Posted on 12/06/2013 at 3:57 pm

mandela
There are few who have spoken as eloquently about poverty, racism and incarceration as Nelson Mandela. His words echo true for all of us at Bailey House:  “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” he said. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Every day at Bailey House, we see stable housing and support transform the lives of our clients from one of trauma and poverty to health, wellness and community. A few years ago, Robbie*, a client who spent 25 years in prison, arrived at our doors three days after his release. He had run out of the medication he needed that had been given to him by prison healthcare services and had only a few dollars left. As he later shared, he was about to steal and probably go back to prison. But then something happened to change his life forever — Robbie became part of Bailey House. Within a few days of connecting with us he had housing and healthcare. A few months later he was attending groups, became certified in peer alcohol and substance abuse counseling, and began dating a woman he met in program.  But Robbie didn’t stop there. He got his GED, a job, is studying for his Master’s degree and was recently discharged from life-long parole.

We believe, as Mandela stated, that helping someone overcome poverty is not charity, but social justice. No one could personify this more for us than Robbie, who had every barrier stacked against him. He, like Nelson Mandela, will forever be our hero.

*Name changed for confidentiality

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Let’s End AIDS Now By Talking About Poverty, Racism, Homophobia, Sexism….

Posted on 12/02/2013 at 4:11 pm


Bailey House CEO Gina Quattrochi speaking at the World AIDS Day rally in Times Square on 12/1/13.

We’ve all heard the phrases “get to zero”, “an AIDS-free generation”, “test and treat” – they are, I fear, hopeful but empty promises. I say that because in the last two weeks, I have attended three different high-level HIV/AIDS symposiums and not one speaker – several of whom are globally famous – talked about what actually drives the epidemic.

I’ve been waiting and hoping to hear the two most important words in the HIV/AIDS lexicon – “structural drivers” –  because until we do, HIV incidence will continue to rise.  Volumes of research show that what fuels the epidemic is not really sex and drugs or individual behavior but rather the “perfect storm” of poverty, homelessness, racism, homophobia, sexism, intimate partner violence and criminalization of drug use that set the stage for risk behavior.

While “structural drivers” may never be popular enough to be on an eye catching bus shelter poster, shouldn’t our leaders at least understand the concepts and say the words?  Isn’t it time for us to realize that the job is even bigger than we thought? Addressing poverty and the rest may seem overwhelming but I’d say it’s time.

Putting condoms in the hands of young adults, without addressing family poverty and unstable housing, will no longer do. Telling young women to insist on safer sex without addressing intimate partner violence won’t do either. Neither will allowing NYC’s homeless number to grow as it has for the last 12 years. End AIDS? Maybe, but not until we are willing to let the “structural drivers” out of the closet and roll off our tongues. No one ever promised it would be easy.

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Bailey House achieves a new level of culturally competent care

Posted on 11/05/2013 at 6:14 pm

Guest Post from Jaymie Kahn, Director of Community Health

You may know us as “the AIDS housing agency” but we do a lot more. Bailey House’s Health Home Targeted Case Management program is now also offering services in healthcare navigation to over 460 individuals throughout NYC.  To ensure quality programming, we continuously assess community need, including whether services are culturally competent.  Recently, through our interaction with new clients, we  identified that we need to provide services in more languages than English and Spanish. There is a huge gap in care for those individuals who speak other languages. Today we are excited to announce that we are now working with an experienced language translation line, allowing us to provide services in over 170 languages.  Our team of expert Care Managers, Patient Navigators and Outreach & Engagement Specialists will be using this service effective November 6, 2013.

_____________________________________________________________

Jaymie Kahn, MPA, MSEd, LMHC, CRC is an experienced administrator in the social service and healthcare fields. Over the past nine years she has worked with individuals living with HIV/AIDS, substance use and mental illness and provided services that empower clients to live healthy lives.

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Our neighbors are hungry: The cuts to SNAP

Posted on 11/01/2013 at 1:43 pm
food pantry line

The line at the Bailey House Food Pantry.

I’ve been writing about the cuts to SNAP (food stamp program) due to the end of the “stimulus” funds that added some extra money to the program. We often hear hunger described as “food insecurity”. This term makes it sound like a psychological condition rather than the terrible reality that many people in our City are hungry because they are too poor to buy enough food.  It reminds me of how the US military refers to soldiers killed in war as “troops”. It desensitizes us to death. The term “food insecurity” similarly desensitizes us to the reality that our poor and low-income neighbors are hungry.

Between January 2013 and October 2013 our Food Pantry distributed 6,894 grocery bags containing 20, 683 meals. Need increased by 10% in that period. 340 children and 1,324 elderly were among those served. The monthly cost of the grocery bags is over $8,000.

What does a food pantry have to do with HIV/AIDS? Proper nutrition is a critical element of HIV/AIDS care. Many medications have to be taken with food.  Sufficient food is also critical to the success of “Test and Treat” and the other new prevention and care interventions. Our National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for improved health outcomes. How will this be achieved if people living with HIV/AIDS and those at high risk cannot get housing and food, the basics of life?

One day a week the Bailey House Food Pantry distribution is limited to our clients. It’s open two other days to the community. If you want to see the face of hunger in NYC, come by our office any Friday at 1PM. We promise you’ll go away with a better appreciation of the tragedy of hunger.

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