There are more than 18,000 people in Arizona who have been diagnosed with HIV according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Montez Shelby is hoping to be one of the success stories, thanks to an award-winning Maricopa County program.
“Project HHHOME has helped me get back on my feet,” he said. “I’m just thankful it’s around. I don’t know what I would’ve done without the program.”
Project HHHOME helps people living with HIV get stable housing, education for employment and medical services, while helping treat their HIV so the disease is no longer transmissible.
“Viral suppression is our ultimate goal,” said Rose Conner, the outgoing operations program manager for Project HHHOME.
Conner added that a person is considered virally suppressed when their HIV has been treated and is no longer transmissible to others.
The Public Health Department’s Ryan White Part A Program partnered with the City of Phoenix and several community-based organizations that specialize in housing to launch Project HHHOME last October. The name is an acronym for “Housing, HIV, Health Outcomes and EmployMEnt/Education.”
According to Conner, the decision to have the program focus on housing came after they discovered that clients without a stable home had a tougher time managing their HIV. Clients with an unstable housing situation had a 49% viral suppression rate compared to 80% for those with stable housing.
“Housing is healthcare,” said Conner, “And by providing that stable house, the clients have a much greater chance of becoming virally suppressed, helping us end the HIV epidemic, which is our ultimate goal.”
The program houses 61 participants, including five families.
Shelby said the program has set him up for success, including the necessary resources to be successful after he completes Project HHHOME.
““They’ve given me a stable place to live, and with that, I’ve been able work on my credit score and pay off bills,” Shelby said.
In order to stay in the program, participants have to get tested every six months and provide lab results, stay in medical care and be working or in an education program to help them get a job.
According to Project HHHOME’s first test in April, 75% of participants in the program have virally suppressed their HIV.
“This comes down to good government,” said incoming operations program manager, Carmen Batista. “It’s not ok that people are sick or more likely to die because they don’t have adequate housing.”
Project HHHOME is one of 31 award-winning programs in Maricopa County to be recognized with a National Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) in 2019. The NACo Achievement Awards highlight programs that have achieved measurable results worth sharing nationwide.