As a recent blog post by AIDS United pointed out, affordable housing is “one of the greatest unmet needs of people living with HIV.” This is why President Obama recently signed a law that updates the federal housing program for people with HIV.

The act now factors local housing costs and poverty rates into the formula used to calculate benefits so that HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS) funds are distributed based on the current state of the epidemic. The U.S. Department of Housing created HOPWA to provide housing assistance and related support services for low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

“Rates of HIV are 3 to 16 times higher among persons who are homeless or unstably housed compared to those living in stable housing,” says Rusty Bennett, PhD, a licensed social worker and cochair of the annual National Conference on Social Work and HIV/AIDS.

When people are stably housed, they’re “more likely to be engaged in care,” he adds.

Says Senator Jack Reed (D–R.I.), who along with Senator Susan Collins (R–Maine) introduced the legislation, “This bill provides a fairer and more accurate formula to meet the needs of those who really need assistance now and in the future.”