Republicans vote to strip housing subsidies from Americans living with HIV/AIDS

Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH), center, speaks with Representative Scott Perry (R-PA), left, and Representative Chip Roy (R-TX), right, before a second round of voting for Speaker of the House begins, in the House Chamber, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, October 18, 2023. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

More than two-thirds of U.S. House Republicans on Tuesday night voted to eliminate a program intended to keep people living with HIV and AIDS housed.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) authored an amendment to the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill that would have eliminated all of the $505 million in federal funding allocated to the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program and put those funds into a so-called spending reduction account. 

A spending reduction account is not an actual account, but rather a list of all spending cuts contained in an appropriations bill; those funds are “not available for further appropriation during consideration of that bill,” according to a 2017 report from the Congressional Research Service.

The amendment failed by a vote of 144-282. All 144 votes for the amendment came from Republicans, including Michigan Republican Reps. Jack Bergman, Bill Huizenga, Lisa McClain, and Tim Walberg.

HOPWA is a federal program created in 1990 to “provide States and localities with the resources and incentives to devise long-term comprehensive strategies for meeting the housing needs of persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome,” or AIDS.

Public health experts and advocates for people with HIV/AIDS say that homelessness is a major obstacle to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States, as those with HIV who have proper housing are more likely to keep taking the antiviral drugs that suppress the virus in their system and prevent them from transmitting it to others. 

“We see no path towards ending the HIV epidemic in the United States without addressing the need for safe, appropriate, & affordable housing for people at-risk and diagnosed with HIV,” the National HIV/AIDS Housing Coalition says on its website. 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition wrote in a 2017 report, “For people living with HIV/AIDS, housing is healthcare.”

“It is estimated that as many as half of all people living with HIV/AIDS will need housing assistance at some point during their illness,” the report says. “As with other chronic conditions that may make it difficult for an individual to find or maintain gainful employment, HIV/AIDS can be an impoverishing disease, requiring reliance upon public subsidies for basic needs, including housing. For many of those individuals and families, short-term assistance with rent, mortgage, or utility costs will provide the support necessary to remain healthy and in stable housing.”

Democrats slammed Republicans for trying to eliminate the program.

“‚Äč‚ÄčRepublicans want to eliminate housing support for 75,000+ Americans living with HIV/AIDS,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tweeted Tuesday night, accusing Republicans in remarks he made in the House of wanting to take the country “back to the 1980s, when the government ignored the needs of those living with HIV and the urgency of the HIV epidemic.” 

“I’ve fought for HOPWA for 30 years because stable housing means better health outcomes, bringing us closer to ending the HIV epidemic,” the tweet continues. “Their cruelty would create a public health emergency.”