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Are They Kidding?!?

It makes us all a bit weary to hear yet another story of blatant discrimination against a person with HIV, but this one just about knocked the floor out from under us. Bob is an award-winning schoolteacher in a northern suburb of Chicago. He recently decided to become a foster parent. So he called one of the largest child welfare agencies in his community — we’ll call it Agency X — to begin the process. As part of the intake process, Bob had to complete a health questionnaire. Before filling it out, he called the agency and told them that he wanted to be upfront about having HIV. Would that make him ineligible for a foster child placement? The staff person on the phone didn’t know but promised to get back to him. A week or so later Bob...

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Fighting HIV Stigma Protects Public Health

Too often we’ve heard that legal services for people with HIV are “secondary” to health care services. What people with HIV need more than anything, the argument goes, is medicine, as though pharmaceuticals alone will render HIV “chronic and manageable” no matter what non-medical crises a person with HIV might face. The insistence on viewing AIDS as primarily a medical issue (as opposed to, say, a civil rights issue or a social justice issue) has even resulted in major funders requiring legal agencies like ours to evaluate the effectiveness of our services by demonstrating improved health outcomes in our clients. And “health” is always defined as personal health, rather than social health. Imagine trying to justify fighting a discriminatory job termination by showing how much a lawsuit increases your client’s CD4 count. Now comes a study that shows what...

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Why You’re Glad You’re Not a Teenager Anymore

We got a call this morning that really got us thinking about the difficulties of facing HIV as an adolescent. Theresa called with concerns about her godson, Gerard. Gerard is 16 and has been HIV-positive since birth. Theresa has known about his status for his entire life, and when Gerard’s mother died she took him in for several years. Theresa knew that Gerard has had a steady boyfriend for the past year, and yesterday while she and Gerard were hanging out in her kitchen she asked him if he had told his boyfriend about his HIV status. Gerard said he had not, and added that they always had protected sex. Theresa asked Gerard if he was afraid to tell his boyfriend about his HIV status, and he said he wasn’t; he just hadn’t gotten around to it. So Theresa...

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Our Eloquent President

Before President Obama reauthorized the Ryan White Care Act today, he made these remarks. They speak for themselves: THE PRESIDENT: We often speak about AIDS as if it’s going on somewhere else. And for good reason — this is a virus that has touched lives and decimated communities around the world, particularly in Africa. But often overlooked is the fact that we face a serious HIV/AIDS epidemic of our own — right here in Washington, D.C., and right here in the United States of America. And today, we are taking two important steps forward in the fight that we face here at home. It has been nearly three decades since this virus first became known. But for years, we refused to recognize it for what it was. It was coined a “gay disease.” Those who had it were viewed...

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Ann Fisher Gets Yet Another Award

It seems that our executive director Ann Fisher’s all-around fabulousness is getting more attention these days. To wit: she’s just been awarded the 2009 Community Leadership Award from the Illinois State Bar Association. Given by the ISBA’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), the honor recognizes individuals for efforts to foster understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their issues of concern. Ann received her honor last week at the ISBA’s 133rd Annual Meeting in beautiful downtown Fontana,...

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