Metro Weekly

Ohio’s Warren Davidson Wants to End Housing for People with HIV

Congressman Warren Davidson has proposed cutting a program helping people with HIV find housing, arguing the program is superfluous.

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson – Photo: U.S. House of Representatives

As the deadline for Congress to pass funding bills to avoid a government shutdown fast approaches, congressional Republicans are pointing to specific programs they would like to see razed to reduce spending significantly.

One of those — U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) — knows exactly what he’d like to cut.

Davidson, who represents a conservative suburban district in southwest Ohio just outside of Cincinnati, proposed an amendment to cut $505 million from the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS Program, which helps people living with HIV to find stable housing.

“AIDS is a horrific disease. And we have lots of horrific diseases in our country, but we don’t have programs for everybody that gets a disease,” Davidson said in a floor speech last week explaining his amendment. “We don’t have programs specifically for people that get cancer, for example.”

He continued, “We have programs for AIDS because when AIDS was first spreading, people didn’t understand it. They thought it was spread, you know, like a contagion, that you could get it just because you lived in the same housing development as someone else. Now that we properly understand AIDS, you don’t have the same kind of denial of access to housing for people.”

Davidson argued that other federal programs help people who need housing and that people with HIV/AIDS who qualify and meet the eligibility standards of such programs can utilize those other programs without requiring a program specifically for people with HIV.

“The reality is [people with HIV] would still have access to housing if they’re qualified for need-based assistance, just like every other American,” Davidson argued. “It doesn’t eliminate the safety net, but it eliminates this special favored treatment. Why is that important? Well, look, we gotta cut something.”

As LGBTQ Nation notes, while discrimination in housing based on a person’s HIV status is technically illegal, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the program Davidson would like to eliminate, investigates numerous complaints each year alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Both acts prohibit discrimination based on disability in any program receiving financial support from the department.

People with HIV may face numerous difficulties — not simply discrimination by landlords or property managers, but because their HIV status or health complications related to their status may make it harder to hold down a job.

People with HIV may also struggle with a lack of affordable housing options, mental health, or substance abuse — all of which may make it more difficult for them to obtain stable housing. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, providing housing assistance to people living with HIV helps reduce the likelihood of outbreaks, which can happen when people are unhoused or lack medical care.

Stable housing provides those living with HIV with an environment that is more conducive to behaviors, such as compliance with medicines and the resulting viral suppression — thus making it more difficult for the disease to be spread to others.

While Davidson’s amendment seems unlikely to remain in the final version of the HUD spending bill — it would have to be approved by the Democratic-led U.S. Senate — it reflects a larger trend of Republican lawmakers offering amendments seeking to limit what they see as excessive spending on government programs.

Notably, several amendments to cut spending also contain riders that specifically target programs for the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV.

Those amendments run the gamut from prohibiting federal funds from being used to subsidize gender-affirming care, to restricting funding for LGBTQ-inclusive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, to allowing discrimination against same-sex couples in some federally funded programs, as reported by The 19th.

In Congress, Davidson has amassed a record of opposing legislation that would advance LGBTQ rights or recognize LGBTQ identity.

He voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, a law to require state and federal governments to recognize all legally performed same-sex marriages as valid — despite 47 of his fellow GOP colleagues voting for the bill.

He also opposed the Equality Act, a sweeping bill to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in various facets of life, including housing, arguing that the bill would “subvert Americans’ religious freedom.”

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