The long hot summer of 2016 will be remembered for many news-breaking moments, but if you are poor, HIV-positive and living in New York City one of them could be life changing.

On June 23, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a significant expansion of a New York State program that provides housing assistance for low-income New York City residents who are HIV-positive. The program, the H.I.V./AIDS Services Administration (HASA), will now provide the same level of public assistance to anyone living with HIV-AIDS, regardless of whether they manifest symptoms of the disease.

The State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute issued updated guidelines that now “define eligibility for HIV care and treatment based on infection status, thus making any person with a diagnosis of HIV eligible for care.” The new policy eliminates an earlier distinction that granted assistance only to people who have symptoms, but not to those who are asymptomatic. Now, all eligible New Yorkers diagnosed with HIV will be eligible for an Emergency Shelter Allowance, which includes monthly transportation and nutrition assistance, and caps the amount a public assistance recipient is required to pay in rent.

Many studies have shown that all individuals diagnosed with HIV, with or without symptoms, benefit from care. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that HIV-positive individuals begin treatment as soon as they are diagnosed.

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Senior Staff Attorney Ira J. Needleman

“The State’s shift is great news and a positive step forward for vulnerable individuals living with HIV who at long last will receive benefits that can keep them housed, help them live healthier lives, and prevent the spread of infection,” said Ira Needleman, a senior staff attorney with NYLAG’s LegalHealth division. Before joining NYLAG Needleman represented HIV-positive clients in the Bronx.

The New York Times reports that an additional 6,500 to 7,000 people stand to benefit. The new rules took effect on August 29.