Revamped Housing Program Targets Regions with High Rates of HIV

Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS program awarded $320.4 million to qualifying states and local jurisdictions.

Congress has restructured the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program to better target areas with high rates of HIV, according to Kaiser Health News.

The bipartisan push seeks to funnel more money into regions struggling to control the epidemic. Funding for the HOPWA program increased approximately 6% this year, according to KHN.

Previously, the money was distributed across the country based on a jurisdiction’s cumulative number of cases—–including individuals who have died, according to KHN. But now, HOPWA has awarded $320.4 million to qualifying states and local jurisdictions to be apportioned based on their share of the total number of individuals living with HIV.

The number of cases needed to qualify for funding shifted from 1500 cumulative AIDS cases to 2000 living cases of HIV/AIDS.

None of the regions will receive less HOPWA funding than in 2016, but approximately 25 cities and counties will receive less than before. The top 5 percentage funding drops are New York City, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC, and Houston.

“As the formula is fully implemented, without additional funds those jurisdictions will lose out,” Opal Jones, vice president of the National AIDS Housing Coalition, told KHN.

Housing instability is linked to delays in HIV testing and treatment, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Roughly half of HIV-positive individuals in the United States will experience a housing crisis in their lifetime, the report noted.

“I think we can’t underestimate the power that home has in improving the health in somebody with a chronic condition,” Russel Bennett, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition, told KHN.

HOPWA was established in 1992 to provide patients with financial assistance to help pay rent, mortgage, and utility costs, according to KHN. The program also offers approximately 10% of its budget, not included in the $320.4 million, for competitive grants to jurisdictions and organizations.

To reduce the impact of the formula change, the law increased appropriations to provide a small increase in funding for each jurisdiction, KHN reported. Areas with higher rates of HIV transmission will continue to see increases over time.

The funding increased by more than double-digit percentages for more than 100 of 140 participating jurisdictions; however, funneling money to current HIV epicenters without additional funding could result in cuts for large metropolitan areas, according to KHN.

To address these potential losses, the program stipulates that a grantee cannot lose more than 5% or gain more than 10% of its share of the prior year’s total HOPWA formula funds over the next 5 years, according to KHN.

“We’ll see some losses in funding [for some areas] over the years,” Rita Flegel, director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing, told KHN. “And then money will be distributed more evenly among people living with HIV.”

Rep David Price (D-NC) said this approach helped ease fears of cutbacks among lawmakers from areas with high HIV cases.

“People of all sorts of political persuasions supported this because this was a question of fairness,” Price told KHN. “[Yet], it was very clear that we needed to increase the size of the pie to make this proposition less difficult.”