Access to Other Essential Support Services
WHERE WE STAND ON ESSENTIAL SUPPORT SERVICES
Since its founding, Housing Works has been adamant that ensuring essential support services for all—whether HIV-positive or HIV-negative—will be a linchpin in achieving and maintaining an AIDS-FREE future.
Essential Support Services: Our Strategies
- Decriminalize syringe possession.
- Effectively address hunger and meet other subsistence needs, which is crucial to engaging and keeping the most vulnerable in care.
- Address other structural drivers of the HIV pandemic, such as the criminalization of the non violent drug violations and adult consensual sex work, as well as the burden of incarceration and entanglement with the correctional system for young menn.
- For those who do become incarcerated, ensure that every person with HIV exiting the correctional system is linked to HIV health care and services in the community prior to release.
OTHER ESSENTIAL SUPPORT SERVICES IN NY CITY & NY STATE
- TRANSGENDER SERVICES
- ACCESS TO CONDOMS
- ENHANCEMENT OF EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
- SEXUAL HEALTH AWARENESS AND EDUCATION FOR YOUTH
- DRUG USER INTERVENTIONS
GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act)
In 2002, SONDA (Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act) passed without inclusion of the transgender community. Housing Works immediately joined a group of advocates protesting the blatant prejudice shown to the transgender community by the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community, they created their own coalition and created their own legislation.
GENDA would add gender identity or expression to the existing Human Rights law in New York thereby affording civil rights protections to transgender resident. At present, it is legal to evict, fire, or deny health care to a transgender New Yorkers solely on the basis of gender identity.
Currently, 10 localities statewide provide protections for transgender residents living and working within that region: Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, New York City, Ithaca, Tompkins County, Suffolk County, Binghamton, Syracuse, and Albany County.
This vulnerability to all manner of discrimination—and in turn to economic instability, homelessness, and to targeted hate violence—affects more than 58,000 New Yorkers who identify as transgender.
Since 2003, Housing Works and other advocates have supported passage of GENDA. It has passed out of the NY State Assembly for each of the past eight years. The NY State Senate has yet to debate the bill at all. (For more on the most recent legislative fight to pass GENDA, see the AIDS Issues Update blog post from June 2015 about the Assembly passage of the bill.)
Updated Birth-Certificate Policy
In June 2014, Governor Cuomo took a giant leap forward in supporting the rights of transgender New Yorkers by updating New York’s regulations regarding modifying a gender marker on a birth certificate. The NY Department of Health no longer requires extensive, private documentation of gender-reassignment surgery or hormone therapy for New Yorkers who wish to change the gender marker on their birth certificates. New Yorkers who want to change the gender marker on a birth certificate will now only need to offer a certification from a licensed medical provider stating that the applicant is undergoing relevant clinical treatment. The previous antiquated policy dates back to the 1970s and required applicants to supply detailed, personal medical records, such as operating room reports describing all procedural details, psychological reports, and a physician’s statement about hormone therapy.
The new process has made it easier for transgender New Yorkers living outside of New York City who have remained vulnerable because their identification documents do not reflect their true gender identities. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 40% of transgender people have faced harassment when presenting identity documents that do not match their gender identity/expression.
However, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has its own separate system for issuing birth certificates, which still requires transgender individuals to undergo surgery in order to change their birth certificates. Advocates are currently working with the NYC officials to modify and update their birth certificate policies as well to match the State’s recent modifications.
ACCESS TO CONDOMS
Since 1999, a New York State bill has existed which would ban the police practice of confiscating unopened condoms and using them as evidence of solicitation or prostitution-related crimes. Currently, police around the state are confiscating condoms from those suspected of engaging in sex work and using them as evidence to arrest those individuals. This practice flies directly in the face of public health. Each year the New York City Health Department gives away some 40 million free condoms a year through its NYC Condom Program, and the state runs a similar initiative via the Department of Health’s AIDS Institute. The long-standing practice of confiscating “condoms as evidence” in prostitution cases forces sex workers to choose between practicing protected sex to avoid contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and getting arrested. A direct result of this practice is that many sex workers carry few or no condoms with them and often engage in unprotected sex. Learn more about this campaign by visiting nocondomsasevidence.org.
In May 2014, the New York Police Department issued a new policy that limits the circumstances in which police can confiscate condoms to be used as arrest evidence in cases involving prostitution, prostitution in a school zone, and loitering for the purposes of prostitution. This policy revision is an exciting first step in changing the attitudes of law enforcement officials to respect the sexual health rights of New York City residents.
As a member of the Access to Condoms Coalition, Housing Works has long supported a statewide measure that would ban the use of condoms as evidence in all cases, thereby preventing police from confiscating condoms in all instances. The new NYPD policy is a step in the right direction for New York City, but a statewide comprehensive policy is the ultimate goal.
ENHANCEMENT OF EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
HIV Welfare to Work Program/Housing Works Job Training Program
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Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) Structural Determinants Workgroup
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SEXUAL HEALTH AWARENESS AND EDUCATION FOR YOUTH
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DRUG USER INTERVENTIONS
Decriminalization of Syringe Possession
Housing Works advocates the repeal of section 220.45 of NY State Penal Law, which results in thousands of syringe possession arrests every year and undermines pubiicly-funded HIV and hepatitis prevention efforts.
Wider Access to Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP)
Housing Works supports legislative changes to ESAP to remove the limit on the number of syringes that an individual can have in his or her possession; remove the age restriction for ESAP participation; and remove the prohibition on ESAP advertising. in addition to clean needles, harm reduction and opiate substitution therapy are essential to HIV prevention.
For more on ESAP, click here.
Medicaid Reimbursement for Syringe Exchange Programs
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NY Senate Task Force on Opioid Addiction
Summary of report. [ADDITIONAL INFO TO COME]
Chart of legislation. [ADDITIONAL INFO TO COME]
Help us advocate for the rights of all people living with HIV/AIDS