Access to Housing as a Structural Intervention for Homeless and Unstably Housed People Living With HIV: Rationale, Methods, and Implementation of the Housing and Health Study
Daniel P. Kidder, Richard J. Wolitski, Scott Royal, Angela Aidala, Cari Courtenay-Quirk, David R. Holtgrave, David Harre, Esther Sumartojo, and Ron Stall
Homelessness and unstable housing have been associated with HIV risk behavior and poorer health among persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), yet prior research has not tested causal associations. This paper describes the challenges, methods, and baseline sample of the Housing and Health Study, a longitudinal, multi-site, randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of providing immediate rental housing assistance to PLWHA who were homeless or at severe risk of homelessness. Primary outcomes included HIV disease progression, medical care access and utilization, treatment adherence, mental and physical health, and risks of transmitting HIV. Across three study sites, 630 participants completed baseline sessions and were randomized to receive either immediate rental housing assistance (treatment group) or assistance finding housing according to local standard practice (comparison group). Baseline sessions included a questionnaire, a two-session HIV risk-reduction counseling intervention, and blood sample collection to measure CD4 counts and viral load levels. Three follow-up visits occurred at 6, 12, and 18 months after baseline. Participants were mostly male, black, unmarried, low-income, and nearly half were between 40 and 49 years old. At 18 months, 84% of the baseline sample was retained. The retention rates demonstrate the feasibility of conducting scientifically rigorous housing research, and the baseline results provide important information regarding characteristics of this understudied population that can inform future HIV prevention and treatment efforts.