New York Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Three Bills That Will Assist People Living With HIV

Gay Men's Health Crisis Commends Lead Sponsor Tom Duane and Entire Senate

Albany, N.Y. -- Three bills that will significantly help people living with HIV/AIDS and enhance HIV prevention efforts passed in the New York State Senate late Thursday and early Friday morning, July 16th and 17th. They are:

  • S2664, a bill that would cap monthly rent payments for New York City HIV/ AIDS Services Administration (HASA) clients at 30% of their monthly income.
  • S3164, the Family Healthcare Decision Act (FHCDA), which would enable family members and others close to the patient (a surrogate) to decide about treatment for incapacitated patients who have not signed a healthcare proxy or left specific oral or written treatment instructions. This is especially important for same-sex couples, whose relationships are not recognized under state law.
  • S3842, a bill which would mandate Department of Health review of policies and practices regarding HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C virus at correctional facilities in New York State. This bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan), already passed the Assembly.

The rent cap bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Duane (D-Manhattan), passed by 52-1, following an impassioned and eloquent speech by Senator Duane in the wee hours of Friday morning. Currently, people living with AIDS receiving benefits from HASA who also have other formsof income-including SSI, SSDI, veteran's benefits or work-are forcedto pay all but $330 of their monthly income towards their rent. This leavesthese clients with an unlivable budget of $11 a day.

FHCDA, also lead sponsored by Duane and, when the Republicans ruled the Senate, by Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City, LI), passed unanimously by 57-0.

"Gay Men's Health Crisis commends the New York State Senate, and especially Senator Tom Duane and Senate President Malcolm Smith, for passing these critically important bills," said Sean Cahill, Managing Director of Public Policy, Research and Community Health at GMHC. "The rent cap bill is a top priority of people living with HIV/AIDs in New York City, including GMHC's 15,000 clients. This bill will allow people to stay in their homes and better afford to live in our expensive city. More stable housing will make it easier for people maintain HIV treatment adherence and stay healthy."

GMHC Action Center leader Jim Lister said, "Now, the only clothes I can afford are those of friends who have died. I collect bottles and cans to have money to buy indispensable necessities that I can no longer afford on $11.46 day."

If the Assembly passes the bill and Governor Patterson signs it, "can restore my dignity," Lister added. Assembly Member Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) is lead sponsor in that body.

"The healthcare decision bill will provide incremental equity to lesbian and gay couples, including many people living with HIV/AIDS," Cahill added. "We urge the Assembly to pass these two bills as soon as possible. The prison HIV bill will ensure that we are doing everything possible to stop the spread of HIV in prison and provide effective and confidential care to HIV-positive prisoners. We urge Governor Patterson to sign it into law soon."

For more background on these three bills, click here to read GMHC's 2009 state policy agenda.