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Thank your local congressperson

Nine hardworking Congresspeople sent a letter demanding answers to charges of discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS by insurance plans. The letter was signed by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

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Ham-B-I-N-G-O

Join our Board of Ambassadors on Sunday, February 19, at 8pm for HamBingo! HamBingo is a charity event held @ Hamburger Mary’s (5400 N. Clark Street in Chicago), with February 19 benefiting Legal Council for Health Justice. Just show up that evening for the fun! Hosted by the Bingo-Diva Velicity Metropolis, this is NOT your typical “church basement bingo.” The show can get a little risqué, so enjoy the drink specials and leave the kids at home! It’s all about having fun while supporting the Legal Council. Guests are asked to make a $15 donation to play all night (10 games, three chances to win each game). All proceeds will go directly to the Legal Council and our legal programs helping low-income people in need. There will also be special shots and drink specials that benefit the Legal Council...

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Client Focus: Hatim

Hatim, an HIV-positive man with limited English skills, first came to AIDS Legal Council after he sustained a devastating injury at his job as a butcher, and was unable to continue working. Hatim’s dominant hand had been caught in a meat grinder; as a result, he lost fingers and suffered extensive bone and nerve damage to his hand and arm. With three minor children at home, a prognosis of 12 to 18 months for rehabilitation, and no other job skills or training, Hatim’s future was unclear. He applied for Social Security disability benefits, but was denied initially because he had been disabled for only 6 weeks at the time of application. Upon reapplication, he was denied again because his wife’s self-employment earnings were mistakenly reported under his name and Social Security number. Meanwhile, Hatim struggled to perform daily living...

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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...

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The Messiness of HIV Criminal Transmission Laws

Ever since the release of last month’s redundantly titled National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States (as opposed to the international strategy for the United States?), we’ve been thinking a lot about one of the report’s recommendations: that states consider repealing their HIV criminal transmission statutes. At least 32 states, including Illinois, have laws which specifically criminalize all sort of “intimate behaviors” if a person with HIV does not first disclose his or her status. It’s an incredibly volatile topic. And a recent New York Times article about a former Olympic medalist facing such charges in Florida does a fine job of teasing out the sort of warring facts, opinions and hostilities that routinely arise in such cases. You can read the full article...

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Ideology Trumps Science

In 2003 President George W. Bush signed legislation that created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program that has funneled $25 billion to combat the AIDS epidemic primarily in Africa. The cynics among us might lament that calling AIDS an “emergency” more than two decades after its appearance shows just how long our government willfully neglected the global pandemic. Still, more than 2 million people have received anti-retroviral medications through PEPFAR. But PEPFAR’s politics, with its insistence on abstinence-heavy HIV prevention messages, have always been troubling to the majority of AIDS activists. A report just released by the Council for Global Equality shows in saddening, infuriating detail just how PEPFAR’s moralistic presumptuousness hinders, complicates and confuses HIV prevention efforts. For example, PEPFAR requires any organization receiving funds to adopt a policy explicitly stating their opposition to...

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