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A New National Strategy?

You’ve probably heard that the White House Office of National AIDS Policy just issued the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States. Like many similar documents, it’s full of lofty language about all the marvelous things the federal government might consider doing to address the HIV epidemic. Those of you with a cynical side might be tempted to roll your eyes and throw the document out the window after reading no further than the “Vision for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy” which functions as the plan’s preamble: “The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.” Heck, all people with seasonal allergies will...

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Wrapping Our Brains Around Health Care Reform

Quick! According to the new, massive health care reform law, when must employers begin to report the value of employees’ health insurance benefits on their W-2s? When will Health and Human Services establish a process to review unreasonable insurance premium increases? When must insurance companies start selling individual insurance policies to anyone, regardless of pres-existing condition? If you know the answers to any of these questions, you are a bigger wonk than us. But if you’d like a concise timeline for the implementation of the various aspects of health care reform, click on this lovely link and read to your wonky heart’s...

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A Happy Ending

You may recall our client’s debacle last month, when he contacted a large child welfare agency to begin the process of becoming a foster parent — and was told that his HIV status would make that impossible. (If you don’t recall, you can read it here). The child welfare agency had sent him a letter explaining that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) prohibits anyone with a “communicable disease” from being a foster parent. Well, we contacted the attorney for the child welfare agency. To his credit, his immediate response was, “That doesn’t sound right.” After some investigation, the attorney assured us that it is not his agency’s policy to turn potential foster parents away simply because they have HIV. In fact, the agency had worked with many HIV-positive foster parents in the past. What might have...

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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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