Helping Homeless and Unstably Housed People with HIV
In 2019, Ward 86 launched POP-UP (Positive-health Onsite Program for Unstably-housed Populations), a new medical program that provides flexible, comprehensive, and patient-centered care. POP-UP specifically aims to reduce health disparities among homeless and unstably housed individuals living with HIV in San Francisco.
A key element of HIV treatment depends on patients being able to achieve “viral suppression,” or to reduce the amount of HIV in one’s blood to an undetectable level. Virally suppressed patients can stay healthy and do not transmit HIV.
However, viral suppression rates are lower for homeless and unstably housed HIV positive individuals in San Francisco than other groups, including people of color, women, youth and people struggling with mental health issues and substance use.
"HIV patients who are homeless or unstably housed have unique needs that can make it challenging to connect to healthcare. POP-UP aims to address these needs."
Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Ward 86, POP-UP
In San Francisco in 2017, two-thirds of those living with HIV who were housed were virally suppressed compared with just a third of the homeless. Equally concerning, homeless persons accounted for 14% of new HIV diagnoses in 2017 despite being less than 1% of the city’s population. These trends are mirrored at Ward 86. Moreover, although many patients with unstable housing at Ward 86 do not come to their primary care appointments regularly, they often do come into our Urgent Care clinic, providing an opportunity for us to work with them on their terms and their schedule.
The POP-UP clinic at Ward 86 sees HIV patients who are homeless or unstably housed, not virally suppressed, and come to our clinic for urgent care or drop-in needs. The team consists of physicians, nurses, and a social worker who actively work together to provide care and coordination for this important population.
To create a low barrier to access care, POP-UP is open five days a week: Monday to Friday afternoons. No appointment is necessary and patients in this program can come anytime any afternoon for care. POP-UP provides incentives for linkage and retention in care, enhanced patient outreach, and referral for emergency and permanent HIV housing.
Clinic Location and Hours
Ward 86, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital
995 Potrero Avenue
Building 80, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94110
The POP-UP clinic is open Monday to Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.
For more information or to contribute to this initiative, contact Elizabeth Imbert, MD.