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Is contracting HIV a cure to homelessness?

Glenn Townes | 10/3/2013, 4:49 p.m.
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 (in green)

It may seem extreme, but some homeless men and perhaps women are purposely contracting the HIV virus in order to obtain government assistance that would no longer require them to live on the street, according to a new report in a national LGBT magazine article.

According to a riveting article in the current issue of OUT magazine, thousands of men and women living on the streets of major cities like New York actively have random and unprotected sex. While it may seem extreme, the notion has helped homeless men in New York City, as well as elsewhere, get off the streets and gain shelter, food and other basic necessities.

For example, in New York City, there are about 4,000 homeless youth—with more than half of them being African-American and/or Latino, according to the most recent statistics from various New York City agencies. It’s paradoxical that in order to enjoy a better and more comfortable life, a person must develop a potentially deadly disease.

“I’ve experienced people [that are] grateful that they have HIV,” said Sage Rivera, a research associate at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “People say, ‘[Now that I have it], I can get my place. Now I can get hooked up and get my food stamps.’” Rivera made his comments about the seemingly concerted effort of some people to contract the virus to OUT magazine.

While the idea may seem sensationalistic and maudlin, some members of the gay community dismiss the idea of people purposely contracting HIV.

“Homelessness is a temporary situation that can be solved with the right resources. HIV is a permanent situation,” said Chet Kabara, a 59-year-old gay rights activist in Hopewell, N.J. “It’s outrageous for anyone to think that getting HIV/AIDS is a good thing!”