Award given to Lutheran Services of Georgia to prevent homelessness in Albany HIV/AIDS community

Homelessness in HIV/AIDS community considered growing problem

Lutheran Services of Georgia (2014)

Lutheran Services of Georgia (2014)

ALBANY — Officials with Lutheran Services of Georgia (LSG) say they have recently received a $225,000 award from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Housing Trust Fund to launch and help expand the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program in Albany.

Officials at LSG say that, due to the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the costs associated with treatment, persons who are HIV-positive are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. The state, through DCA, has been receiving $2 million annually to provide assistance in 127 counties — including financial assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities to HIV-positive residents — encompassing eight regional areas, including the Valdosta, Albany, Tifton and Waycross region.

Officials at LSG say they are partnering with community organizations including area clinics, state and regional public health officials, the Albany Area Community Service Board and the Salvation Army that refer eligible clients for HOPWA, and say they plan to expand the program to other areas of Georgia in the future.

“We are very excited to work with our community partners to assist meeting the needs of this vulnerable population,” said Phillip Hogan, LSG’s program manager for HOPWA.

Indications are that the impact of the disease is significant in the area, with the Georgia Department of Public Health Online Analytical Statistical Information System showing 32 deaths related to HIV/AIDS in the Southwest Public Health District in 2011.

Of those 32, 14 were from Dougherty County.

Facts available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, in 2009, the number of adults and adolescents living with an AIDS diagnosis was highest in the southern United States. The following year, statistics showed that blacks accounted for the largest proportion of AIDS diagnoses in the South, Northeast and Midwest.

The CDC data also shows the HIV infection rate in the U.S. was 417.5 per 100,000 population at the end of 2008 in people ages 18-64 years of age, with the rate in Georgia at the same time ranging from 428.1-3,365.2 per 100,000 population. At the end of 2010, the South accounted for 45 percent of the estimated 33,015 new AIDS diagnoses in the 50 states and District of Columbia.

In 2009, the South accounted for 40 percent of the estimated 476,732 people living with an AIDS diagnosis in the nation, while at the same time also accounting for 48 percent of the 177,774 people who succumbed to the illness, the CDC showed.