Washington Post Examines Local Shelter For Homeless People Living With HIV/AIDS
The Washington Post on Tuesday examined the Washington, D.C.-based homeless care center Joseph's House, which provides nursing services and support to homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Physician David Hilfiker in 1990 opened Joseph's House in response to the increasing number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the city. The house provides nursing and hospice care for patients living with the disease but also welcomes, if space allows, people who are not HIV-positive. Around half of the funding for the house comes from federal and local government support, and the remaining funding comes from grants and private donations, the Post reports.
Hilfiker said that his "vision" for the house was "really community, not a hospice." The Post reports that as the house has retained its sense of community, "the frailty of its residents has increased." While medications have made it possible for people living with HIV/AIDS to live longer, "many residents [of Joseph's House] have not consistently taken those drugs, facing barriers such as addictions, mental illnesses or a shelter life inconsistent with medicine that must be taken regularly," according to the Post.
The D.C. Department of Health's HIV/AIDS Administration reports that there were at least 400 people known to be homeless and living with HIV/AIDS in the city as of December 2007; 75% were men and 83% were black. According to the Post, the district has one of the largest homeless populations in the country and a high HIV/AIDS burden, but "it is impossible to know how many people live at the intersection of those two statistics." Nationwide, 3% to 10% of homeless people are HIV-positive -- about 10 times greater than the general population -- and the HIV/AIDS mortality rate among homeless people is seven to nine times higher than the general population, according to Nancy Bernstein, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. Priscilla Norris, a nurse at Joseph's House, said that a lack of drug access often does not pose the biggest problem for people who come to the house but rather "out of control" lives that did not allow them to take advantage of medication until coming to the shelter. The article also profiled several people living at the shelter (Vargas, Washington Post, 12/2).