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On World AIDS Day, Justice Department Reaffirms Commitment to Protecting Civil Rights of People Living with HIV and AIDS

December 3, 2023
Source: Justice Department (DOJ)

On World AIDS Day 2023 [December 1], the Justice Department reaffirms its commitment to safeguarding the civil rights of people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) more than 30 years ago, the department has worked vigorously to protect and advance the rights of the more than one million Americans living with HIV and AIDS.

“The Justice Department strives to defend the rights of all Americans, including people living with HIV and AIDS,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “On World AIDS Day, we recognize our responsibility and reaffirm our commitment to prevent discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS. We continue our fight to stop the spread of stereotypes and misinformation about the disease to remove senseless burdens and to ensure that those living with HIV and AIDS are treated fairly. We carry out this work with a commitment to racial equity given that Black and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by HIV.”

Over the past year, the Civil Rights Division has prioritized enforcement of the ADA and other laws to seek equal opportunity for and to combat discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS.

For example, today, the Justice Department announced its finding that Tennessee, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office violated the ADA by enforcing the State’s aggravated prostitution statute against people living with HIV. The Tennessee aggravated prostitution statute elevates misdemeanor conduct to a felony based on an individual’s HIV status and mandates registration on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry.

In addition, in August, the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services secured a settlement resolving allegations that a home healthcare provider discriminated against a person with HIV. The agreement requires the home healthcare provider to ensure that people with disabilities, including those who have or are perceived as having HIV, receive equal opportunities to obtain the provider’s services. The provider will also train its employees and pay damages to the person who experienced this discrimination.

The department also continues to monitor recent settlement agreements and consent decrees that involve alleged discrimination against people with HIV, including:

  • consent decree resolving a lawsuit against the Town of Clarksville, Indiana. The lawsuit alleged that the town’s police department prevented a qualified applicant from becoming a police officer based on his HIV diagnosis. The agreement requires Clarksville to pay monetary damages to the complainant, revise its policies and train its personnel;
  • settlement agreement with an in-home caregiving agency in Wisconsin that allegedly refused to provide in-home services to an individual with HIV. The agreement requires the agency to pay monetary damages to the individual, adopt a non-discrimination policy and train its staff;
  • Two settlement agreements with tattoo studios in California and Colorado that allegedly refused services to clients who informed the studios of their HIV-positive status. The agreements require the tattoo studios to pay monetary damages to the complainants, develop a non-discrimination policy and train their employees;
  • Two consent decrees resolving cases alleging that doctors in California refused to provide routine medical care to a patient because of her HIV status. One lawsuit alleged that when the patient tried to make an appointment, she was told that the doctor could not see her because she had HIV, and the second lawsuit alleged that another doctor denied the patient a Pap smear, a regular preventative procedure, because he found her a “high risk” patient. The consent decrees require each doctor to pay monetary damages to the complainant and a civil penalty to the United States, to receive training on the ADA and the care of patients with HIV and to implement a non-discrimination policy; and
  • settlement agreement with the Nevada Department of Corrections to resolve systemic discrimination in its correctional practices. The department’s investigation found that the state impermissibly isolated and segregated inmates with HIV, failed to keep their HIV status confidential and denied them equal employment opportunities as well as classification and housing at lower custody levels. The agreement requires Nevada to develop or amend policies and procedures to ensure equal and integrated housing, classification and employment opportunities, to train staff on the ADA and to implement an ADA grievance procedure.

Along with its enforcement efforts, the department continues to engage in outreach to educate people living with HIV and AIDS, businesses, state and local governments and other covered entities on their rights and responsibilities under the ADA. The department also provides technical assistance and responds to questions from individuals and covered entities through our ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 833-610-1264 (TTY).

To learn more about the Civil Rights Division’s work, please visit Civil Rights Division | Department of Justice and ADA.gov.

News source: justice.gov/opa/pr/world-aids-day-justice-department-reaffirms-commitment-protecting-civil-rights-people-living

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