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More Idiot Chronicles

We had a little flashback to 1983 this week, when a client called with a story that seemed to come straight from those days of ignorance and intolerance. Sheila works transporting passengers who need assistance, typically the elderly and disabled. When she started the job about six months ago, she hired a good family friend, Angela, to babysit her young children. But last week Sheila began to suspect that Angela might be mistreating her kids, so she fired her. Angela didn’t take kindly to losing her job, so she decided to make life difficult for Sheila. Angela didn’t know that Sheila had HIV, but she did know that Sheila was getting housing assistance from a certain social service agency in Chicago. So she called that agency, pretending to need help, and asked how she could become eligible for services....

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Think Before You Blurt

And you thought doctors were supposed to be smart… Brian was hospitalized for a week last August. One day his friend Cheryl was visiting him when a doctor walked into his room. She introduced herself as the allergy specialist, and she’d come to check for any allergic response to the medications he’d been given. Then she said, ‘The HIV specialist will be in tomorrow to monitor you as well.’ Cheryl didn’t know Brian had HIV until the doctor unthinkingly blurted it out. As you might imagine, Brian was quite upset at the doctor’s disregard for his privacy. He filed a grievance with the hospital. The hospital acknowledged the doctor’s mistake and apologized. That wasn’t enough to convince Brian that this wouldn’t happen again to someone else. So he contact us. We interviewed Cheryl, confirmed the story, and determined that...

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Welcome to America, Gilles!

We do love reporting stories with happy endings. So here we go. Gilles is from Cameroon, and was granted asylum by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in August of 2005. Gilles wanted to get a green card so that he would be an official ‘lawful permanent resident,’ the first step toward becoming a citizen. So he filled out all the proper forms, and then went to get the required medical exam. The civil surgeon who did the exam told Gilles he had HIV. Convinced that he could never get a green card because of his diagnosis, Gilles threw his completed immigration forms away. A couple months later, he called us and spoke to Ruth Edwards, our super-whiz-bang immigration attorney. She explained that having HIV did not automatically disqualify him from getting a green card: he would...

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Steven Barrera, Superduper Hero

In truth, it’s nothing special. We here at AIDS Legal Council often have to rush out of the office to help clients in tight spots. But here’s a story that reminds us why it’s important for the Council to be ready at a moment’s notice to leap tall buildings in a single bound (metaphorically, of course). Our lovely and talented paralegal Steven Barrera has a client who called last week, wanting to do powers of attorney. We’ll call her Crystal. She fled from Cuba a couple decades ago. Back then she was Juan. These days she lives as a woman. Crystal only speaks Spanish, and she cannot read or write. Crystal called because she was having some sort of heart trouble and was in the hospital for observation. The doctors assured her it was minor, but since she has...

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If You Talk, You Pay

Remember the case of the loose-lipped phlebotomist? It has a happy ending. A few months ago we told you about Leonard, who got his blood drawn at a suburban hospital. He started chatting with the phlebotomist, and it turned out that her nephew worked in the same store as Leonard. A few weeks later, everyone in that store was talking about Leonard’s HIV status. It looked to us like the phlebotomist blabbed about Leonard’s HIV status to her nephew, who then blabbed to co-workers. You can read the original post here. We confirmed our suspicions by talking to the assistant manager at Leonard’s store, who told us that the nephew had indeed disclosed Leonard’s HIV status. And obviously, he could only have learned about it from his aunt. When we first contacted the attorney for the hospital, she said...

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The VA Wises Up

File this one under “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me, It’s Not 1983 Anymore.” Our client Mark is a disabled veteran. A few years ago he was a raging alcoholic and drug addict. Then he started going to NA and AA meetings every day — yes, every day — for 18 months (hell, I can’t even make my bed every morning). Cleaned up at last, he decided to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a chef. So he signed up for vocational rehabilitation through the Veterans Administration. He began his first semester of culinary school and received all A’s. But a couple weeks ago, one of Mark’s vocational counselors was ready to pull the plug on his employment plan, convinced that a person with HIV shouldn’t work around food. “Would you want someone with HIV cooking your food?” he...

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