President Biden’s American Jobs Plan has largely been noted as a plan that invests in America’s future. In fact, there are several areas where the plan makes significant steps forward in areas that are critical to ending the HIV epidemic. While this plan is still being reviewed and debated by House and Senate leaders and is likely to have revisions, it is important to uplift the areas that could help meet the needs of people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
Housing is HIV care
The American Jobs Plan currently aims to allocate $213 billion for a wide variety of housing issues, focusing primarily on low-income renters and homebuyers. With millions of families spending more than half of their income on rent and home energy costs, this package is critical to ensuring that people have safe and affordable housing.
One of the key investments the plan makes is in updates and upgrades to public housing. $40 billion is currently earmarked for this effort. The funding will go towards critical updates to curb hazards in public housing. Part of this rehabilitation would include upgrades to make public housing more energy-efficient and updates that would cut the cost of home energy costs for those living in public housing. These improvements will benefit women, people of color and people with disabilities.
This long overdue investment in housing must also include the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program. These funds are critical to ensuring we can end the HIV epidemic because the program allows those living with HIV to remain safely housed with improved access to HIV treatment and care. Safe and affordable housing is critical to ensuring that individuals vulnerable to HIV can continue to access preventive medical care.
Access to the internet improves health care accessibility
The American Jobs Plan also places a large emphasis on delivering high-speed broadband to every household. This includes the 35% of those living in rural communities who lack access to broadband at acceptable speeds. Additionally, due to the United States’ high cost of broadband, millions of households are currently unable to afford broadband internet, even if the infrastructure exists in the area they live.
The proposed $100 billion investment in digital infrastructure aims to provide 100% coverage to the United States, which will improve access to telehealth. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, many health care organizations have realized the benefit of having the option to provide telehealth care for appointments that can be done over a phone or video call. The American Rescue Plan would help ensure these benefits are available to all.
Why is there no health care infrastructure investment?
One area that is not addressed directly in this funding is health care infrastructure. We cannot “build back better” without making significant investments in health care infrastructure. We are hopeful that some of this funding will be invested into expanding and modernizing aspects of health care facilities across the country but it is unlikely to have support. This is largely due to partisan opposition to much-needed health care spending in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where trillions have been spent over the last several months. We cannot “build back better” without significant investments made into health care infrastructure.
So, what does it all mean?
Modernizing our housing and broadband services is critical to ending the HIV epidemic in every corner of the United States.
Housing is health care for the many who lack stable housing. Access to safe and affordable housing options keeps those who are living with HIV engaged in the care that is critical to their health and well-being.
Expanding broadband services is also critical to expanding access to care to those who might have transportation barriers to access regular medical care.
By improving areas that are barriers to care, the ability to end the HIV epidemic is strengthened. The current investments are headed in the right direction, but we cannot “build back better” until our entire health care infrastructure also sees significant investments to support holistic care. This must include expanded access and services for minority communities, people who use drugs, sex workers, those in need of mental health services and those living with or vulnerable to HIV.