Housing can help end the HIV epidemic

HIV and housing advocates met at the White House Thursday to discuss the intersection between housing status and sexual health outcomes. AIDS United’s Carl Baloney Jr., vice president and chief advocacy officer, moderated the roundtable conversation.

This was the first White House-led convening of officials across the federal government to understand the connection between sexual health outcomes and HIV in order to address health inequities and improve the quality of life for people affected by HIV.

Housing is the greatest unmet need for people living with HIV. A recent National Institutes of Health study found that unstable housing contributes to 22% of new HIV infections and 27% of new Hepatitis C infections in the United States.

Currently, housing resources for people living with HIV are inadequate. In fact, one in four people living with HIV had shelter or housing service needs.

The federal Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS Program is the only dedicated source of housing funds for this population. The program currently only has enough funding to house everyone who needs it for 1.24 months. The HOPWA program is projected to need approximately $1 billion to meet the need for housing and is currently funded at half that amount.

Current HOPWA funding does not meet the need for housing, but the increases requested by the AIDS Budget and Appropriations Coalition would go a long way toward preventing homelessness among people living with and vulnerable to HIV.

We all know that we cannot end the HIV epidemic without ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to stable, affordable housing. Diverse funding streams, including the coordination of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and HOPWA, can address both housing needs and broader social determinants of health as well.

Calls to action from the roundtable include:

  • Include people living with HIV as a priority population for housing choice vouchers,
  • Remove legal barriers to housing access,
  • Fund housing and integrated supportive housing services,
  • Revise the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program to provide rental deposits,
  • Make permanent the polices put into place because of the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as continuous enrollment for Medicaid,

The roundtable was a co-hosted by the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV Prevention, and the Department of Housing and Urban Affair’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing. Speakers included Harold Phillips, director of the White House office, Lauren Banks of the National HIV/AIDS Housing Coalition, David Kern of the Chicago Department of Public Health and Dr. DeMarc Hickson of Us Helping Us People Into Living.