HIV/AIDS patients in NYC forced to choose between paying for rent or basic needs

 

Wanda Hernandez is one of many New Yorkers with HIV struggling to pay rent and for basic needs. Bess Adler, Metro
Wanda Hernandez is one of many New Yorkers with HIV struggling to pay rent and for basic needs. Bess Adler, Metro

Every month, Wanda Hernandez considers whether to use her cash for bills, rent or possibly medical care.

Having lived for 15 years with HIV, Hernandez, 50, has chronic pain blocking her from work. But the largest chunk of her disability assistance goes toward the $1,000 rent for her 1-bedroom in the Bronx, near Arthur Avenue.

“I have to choose between paying my Con Ed or my rent, basically,” she told Metro.

She is one of many HIV patients who use have to use more than 70 percent of their disability income on rent, according to a new study by VOCAL-NY, which helps people with HIV/AIDS, and the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project.

As a result, thousands become homeless, unable to afford rent checks, the Friday report said.

Study organizers say that a state bill would protect them by ensuring they pay no more than 30 percent of their disability income toward affordable housing rent.

In the study, more than two-thirds of people said they decided between rent and necessities like medical care in the six months before losing their apartment.

And one in three struggled to pay medical expenses, the study revealed.

“Those living with HIV/AIDS should not have to choose between their medication and housing,” Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez said.

After rent, Hernandez has about $340 monthly, she said, or about $12 a day — scraped together for food, utilities and unexpected expenses like recently dropping her phone in the toilet.

She can’t get to her medical appointments sometimes because she can’t afford the Metrocard.

Con Ed shut off her lights last week, she said, and she faces a hearing Tuesday about possible eviction.

“I am very petrified,” she said. “I don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”

Before, she worked two places, going from an administrative assistant position to a bar job at night. Now, she is not sure how to move forward.

“I haven’t broken down yet,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m superwoman, but I do have my point, when I break down.”


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