Press Releases

Testimony Before the New York City Council Committee on General Welfare Regarding the Expansion of Benefits to Poor People with HIV

Oct 15, 2015

The HIV/AIDS Committee of the New York City Chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) led by the Reverend Al Sharpton, respectfully submits testimony regarding the expansion of benefits to poor people with HIV in New York City.

The NAN HIV/AIDS Committee is a health-related advocacy group and strongly urges the adoption and signing into law of Bill No. 684 which of course is aimed at reducing the scourge of HIV.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State by the end of the year 2020 is a worthy formula for improving the lives of African American and Latino New Yorkers in communities disproportionately afflicted by HIV and AIDS.

New York State has developed a blueprint to work toward the goal to end the HIV epidemic over the next 5 years, by decreasing the number of new HIV infections from the current approximately 3,000 to below 750 new HIV infections annually, such that it is below epidemic threshold. Statistically, this would be the end of HIV in Harlem. Statistically this would be the end of HIV in the South Bronx.

Many opponents of this excellent plan argue that its enhanced housing would lead the poor to swap good health for HIV in order to secure the housing benefits of this bill. In other words, options will entice the poor to trade good health for better dwellings. The poor is not stupid enough to hasten the end of their own lives simply because taxpayers underwrite the cost of treating their lives.

There is no evidence that NY City or State policies around housing have ever contributed to people getting infected with HIV. New York has many kinds of support for people with HIV infection and the general Medicaid population.

Specifically, in New York, the Delivery System Repayment Incentive Payment Program, or DSRIP, a program of healthcare transformation, includes new healthcare networks, called Performing Provider Systems, or PPS, which are engaging with community-based organizations and their services, including care management services to the Medicaid population at large, with attention to the social determinants of health, including housing. How we pay for healthcare for those with Medicaid is also being restructured through value-based payments, which are also including efforts to look at social determinants of health.

The fact that Bill No. 684 exists at all is an indication that others of us realize that HIV is a community problem and that community resources must be employed to solve this problem. We are indeed the keepers of our brothers and sisters, our kindred in need.

As we embrace them with expanded care, we contribute to the health and wellness of the total community.

The passage into law of Bill 684, then, is a must for those of us who are proud to claim New York as our home. It is in support of this pride that I stand before this august body in the name of the HIV/AIDS Committee of the NYC Chapter of the National Action Network, as the chair and as a member of the Health and Human Services Committee of Bronx Community Board No. 10. It is in support of this pride that I respectfully ask that Speaker Melissa Viverito and the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio strike a blow for justice with the adoption and signing of Bill 684.

Thank for the opportunity for me to advocate for my brothers and sisters.

Alvin Ponder, M.D.
140 Bellamy Loop, Unit 2C
Bronx, NY 10475

Chair, HIV/AIDS Committee
National Action Network, NYC Chapter

Chair, Ad Hoc Bylaws Committee
Member, Health & Human Services Committee
Bronx Community Board No. 10