Pages Navigation Menu

Stigma and punishment

More bad news out of Missouri. Windy City Times this week recounts the tragic story of Michael Johnson, above, sentenced to 30 years in prison for HIV transmission. Our Executive Director, Tom Yates, weighs in: “There is no scientific basis for laws that criminalize the transmission of HIV. In addition, criminalization actually undermines effective HIV prevention efforts by discouraging HIV testing, because ignorance of one’s status could be a defense to prosecution. Thus, criminalization laws provide a disincentive to HIV testing and treatment for those who are HIV positive. Such laws also place legal responsibility for HIV prevention exclusively on those who are already living with HIV and dilutes the public health message of shared responsibility for sexual health between sexual...

Read More

Protecting Legal Rights = HIV Prevention

Last week the United States Department of Justice announced settlements in two cases involving HIV discrimination. In the first case, a podiatrist at Mercy Medical Group Midtown Clinic in Sacramento, California incorrectly told his HIV-positive patient that he could not perform a needed surgery on the man’s foot. The surgeon was afraid he’d contract HIV from the patient during surgery. In the second case, the Knoxville Chiropractic Clinic North in Knoxville, Tennessee turned away an HIV-positive man who’d been approved for twenty-four chiropractic treatments after being in a car accident. He was told the clinic doctors could not treat people “like him.” Prejudice is always ugly, but it’s especially abhorrent in these cases because the people who discriminated were medical professionals – the very people we’d expect to know better. The worst of it is that medical professionals who...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

Health Care Reform? How About Health INSURANCE Reform?

A recent case out of South Carolina’s Supreme Court gives a glimpse of just how unfair, unreasonable and downright cold-hearted at least one insurance company can be when dealing with a person with HIV. Here’s what happened, according the court’s ruling. On May 15, 2001, Jerome Mitchell, Jr. of Florence, South Carolina, applied for health insurance through Fortis Insurance Company. Jerome was 17 years old at the time and no longer covered under his mother’s health insurance policy. The application for the insurance included a health questionnaire. Among other things the application asked if he had been diagnosed or treated “for any immune deficiency disorder by a member of the medical profession.” Jerome answered “no.” A little over a year later Jerome donated blood, and on May 13, 2002 he received a letter from the Red Cross informing him...

Read More

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....

Read More