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The Chicago Public Health Department will provide funds for people living with AIDS

by Meghan Anne Bunchman
Nov 08, 2012

More than 21 years after basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson stunned the world with his announcement of being HIV-positive, Chicago residents still struggle with the stigma and financial obstacles associated with the deadly virus.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently allocated 5.5 million to the Chicago Department of Public Health to help fund housing for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.

The money will support residence operating costs, educational services and tenant- based rental assistance for Chicago housing organizations in 2013.

“There is a very strong correlation between homelessness and AIDS,” said Arturo V. Bendixen, vice president of housing partnerships at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “Homeless people tend to be three-to-nine times more at risk of contracting HIV.”

“Studies have shown that homelessness is a risk factor for HIV and HIV is a risk factor for homelessness,”
according to the Public Health Department’s request for proposal.

This continual cycle has led to 60 percent of people living with AIDS experiencing homelessness or housing instability. “The need for stable and affordable housing is more urgent after becoming infected,” the request says.

More than 12,000 HIV cases and nearly 28,000 AIDS cases were reported in the greater Chicago metropolitan area as of December 2010.

The estimated cost of lifetime HIV treatment is approximately $380,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Crystal Gamble, case manager supervisor at the Emerald House in Calumet Park, said that eight men diagnosed with AIDS are housed at her facility. However, she said some places are not able to accommodate HIV positive tenants.

“When it comes to the homeless sectors, there are some facilities that are not medically equipped to deal with the HIV population,” Gamble said.

In recent years, the face of AIDS has shifted away from the once stereotypical “gay white man” image.

“There are no boundaries to this disease,” Bendixen said. “It’s no longer seen as the gay disease.”