Published January, 2011

Social Services for Women Living With HIV--The Facts, Center for Women and HIV Advocacy at HIV Law Project (2011)

Because of the disproportionate rate at which low-income individuals are infected with HIV, low or no cost social services may mean profound differences in quality and length of an individual's life. This fact sheet from the HIV Law Project is an advocacy tool that examines some of the social services available to women with HIV or AIDS and explains why they are necessary to help save lives.

Housing has a strong connection to HIV—HIV among homeless individuals is nine times as high as it is among the general population. The fact sheet notes that homeless or marginally housed people are both more likely to delay care and more likely to engage in risk behavior and that there is therefore a significant portion of the U.S. population at amplified risk of HIV if their housing assistance is cut. The fact sheet also argues that housing has been found to be cost effective by reducing costs of emergency services and inpatient health care. Mental health services similarly help reduce the spread of HIV by providing treatment and encouraging healthy behavior.

Publicly provided case management likewise affects HIV care. One study cited in this document found that 78% of low-income individuals involved with a case management program were linked to HIV medical care—a 30% increase from those without such services. The availability of programs designed to help mothers also increases the rate of compliance with treatment in women with HIV. One study found that 59% of the HIV positive women surveyed cited childcare responsibilities as a barrier to accessing healthcare and other services needed to maintain HIV treatment. Low cost or free childcare facilities can greatly alleviate stress and allow seropositive women to take care of their health. Services that provide free or low cost transportation similarly help aid low-income individuals in managing their HIV by providing a means by which to access health clinics.

The fact sheet, by discussing the various social services women with HIV often rely on, highlights the necessity of continued funding of them. While things such as transportation and case management programs may seem trivial in large-scale budget talks, they play a critical role in HIV prevention and in helping HIV positive women remain healthy.