I am interested in examining the intersection of homelessness, addiction, and HIV/AIDS and other chronic health conditions. As a social work practitioner working with homeless HIV positive individuals in Chicago, I recognized that these conditions often influence one another. For example, when a person lacks stable housing, he or she may be more likely to use and become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, which can sometimes lead to health problems including HIV. Although research demonstrates numerous instances of the close connection between housing and many areas of health, our policies and systems of care do not always acknowledge or address this intersection. My goal is to conduct research that applies a multilayered perspective on the social determinants of health and ultimately to contribute through research and collaboration to the design of effective policies and health interventions for homeless and vulnerably housed populations.
As I’ve engaged in this work, it has struck me that there is still so much unnecessary suffering related to health, even in resource-rich places like the United States. There are so many health conditions that are clearly socially influenced and affected by the inequalities that are present in our society. The U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic, for example, is disproportionately concentrated in communities of color and specifically in low-income urban neighborhoods. This does not need to remain the case, and I believe that social workers can play a leading role in promoting health and preventing disease through research, practice, and policy action on the social determinants of health.