Housing as Medicine for HIV/AIDS - About HOPWA

written by naehblog
December 1, 2009

It should come as no surprise that today isWorld AIDS Day.

It may, however, come as a surprise that there’s an Office of HIV/AIDS Housing at theDepartment of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). More surprising, maybe, that the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing at HUD runs a program called Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, abbreviated HOPWA. 
Research has shown that it’s hard for people – especially people with more economic challenges – to take the necessary steps to manage HIV/AIDS.

This probably doesn’t come as a galloping shock – managing HIV/AIDS requires a strict regimen of a combination of retroviral agents (often three or more). Many people lack the capacity to access treatment, follow the required schedule, or have psychological and physical limitations that prevent them from properly treating the disease. People are also deterred by the various side effects of the treatment, which include lipodystrophy,dyslipidemia, the risk of birth defects, and insulin resistance. Perhaps most notably, the treatment is quite costly, and prohibitively expensive to most of the world’s HIV/AIDS – afflicted population. 
Research has also confirmed that stable housing, coupled with supportive services that are responsive to their complex needs, increases the ability of people living with HIV/AIDS to access and comply with HIV/AIDS treatment. This is especially true for poor and low-income people.

According to the National AIDS Housing Coalition:

It has been estimated that as many as half of all people living with HIV/AIDS will need housing assistance at some point in their illness. For many of those, short-term assistance with rent, mortgage, or utility costs alone will provide the necessary support to remain healthy and in stable housing. But others are struggling with multiple diagnoses of HIV and mental illness and/or substance use. Access to housing assistance and services is often further complicated by histories of incarceration, institutionalization, and homelessness. HOPWA housing assistance helps prevent homelessness and creates access to medical care and support services for individuals and families affected by HIV and AIDS.

This is where a program like HOPWA can really make a difference.

HOPWA is the only federal program that specifically targets the housing needs of people with HIV/AIDS and their families. Established in 1992, HOPWA provides funds to qualified state and local governments to help low-income people with AIDS and their families by providing:


  • Short-term rental assistance;
  • Mortgage and utility assistance to prevent homelessness;
  • Facility-based assistance, including construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, operating costs, and supportive services.

As unlikely as the subject of housing might be in a discussion about HIV/AIDS, it’s clear that stable housing – as well as complementary services and social support – are critical for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. HOPWA provides qualifying individuals the assistance necessary to find stable housing.

Find out more about HOPWA on the Alliance website.