As Mayor Micheal Nutter presented his 2012 budget to City Council, members of ACT UP Philadelphia disrupted his speech to demand that he fund homes for people with AIDS in Philadelphia. “People with AIDS are dying for homes,” said ACT UP member Jose de Marco, one of the approximately twenty people who disrupted the Mayor’s speech. “The Mayor told us directly that he lives in a political world and can’t do anything to save sick people’s lives. We’re here to make this problem a political problem for the Mayor, since he’s refused to act out of moral imperative.”
ACT UP has been campaigning for nearly two years to force the City to invest in housing for people with AIDS. According to thousands of pages of peer-reviewed research, housing is just as important as treatment in improving health outcomes, and is a vital part of HIV prevention. “It would save the city money and save lives, plain and simple,” said ACT UP member Antonio Davis. “But instead, the Mayor is taking the easy way out.”
Carla Fields, an ACT UP member who is currently on the two-year-long waiting list for housing subsidies, said the City needs to fix this problem, because shelters are unsafe for people with HIV. “I have had 75% of my body eaten up by bedbugs in the shelter. The Mayor apologized to me personally for having to suffer and get sick in the shelter system, but I don’t want his apology. I want him to end the AIDS housing waiting list!”
In November 2010, ACT UP met with Mayor Nutter and his staff to explain why the City needed to invest in housing for people with HIV. Along with representatives from the University of Pennsylvania, they laid out the evidence for providing homes to everyone in need, and especially to those living with HIV. At that time, the Mayor said that he couldn’t make any commitments and he doesn’t know where the resources could come from. ACT UP’s solution – “stop warehousing people in shelters, and instead invest in rent subsidies which actually solve the problem and keep people healthy”, says Max Ray, one of the authors of ACT UP’s Housing Report “Dying for Homes”.
The budget now goes on to City Council for review and amendment. “We believe that Council Members will understand the importance of addressing the AIDS housing crisis, and we hope they will act to fix Nutter’s budget and ensure that $2-4 million is added to the budget to end the waiting list,” said Cliff Williams, a formerly homeless member of ACT UP who finally got housing subsidies through the City late last year. “Housing is saving my life. Everyone needs to have access to housing so their lives can be saved too.”
ACT UP Philadelphia is an all-volunteer group of people, united in anger and committed to ending the AIDS crisis through direct action. It is led by people with HIV and people of color, and was founded in Philadelphia in 1988.