Civil Rights Violations Against HIV-Positive People ‘Widespread’ in Rural Areas of U.S., ACLU Report Says
Civil rights violations against people with HIV/AIDS are still widespread throughout rural areas of the United States, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report released on Thursday, Reuters reports. The report, which was based on interviews with 43 community-based AIDS service providers in 11 states, found that some HIV-positive people have been denied medical treatment, deprived of parental rights, discriminated against in the workplace and refused admittance to nursing homes and residential facilities. In addition, nearly all of the 43 providers interviewed reported medical privacy violations (Reuters, 11/13). The report says that many people avoid HIV testing and treatment services because they fear that a breach in confidentiality could lead to discrimination or rejection in their families and communities, according to the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer (O'Hanlon, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/14).
"The situation is much worse than we thought it would be," Paul Cates, director of public education for the ACLU AIDS Project, said, adding, "It is pretty horrible stuff when you realize this is not a disease spread through casual contact and we are more than 20 years into this epidemic" (Reuters, 11/13). "Many people are still completely clueless about HIV/AIDS and about their legal obligations for dealing with people with the disease," Leslie Cooper, a staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project, said, adding, "By exposing these violations, we hope more people will think twice before firing someone or turning them out onto the street because of HIV." The results of the survey are being distributed to community-based HIV/AIDS service providers in order to educate people about their rights, according to an ACLU release. In addition, the ACLU is distributing posters and brochures about common forms of discrimination, encouraging people to contact the ACLU if they feel their rights have been violated (ACLU release, 11/13).
The ACLU on Thursday also filed both a state and a federal lawsuit on behalf of a 19-year-old Nebraska woman -- known as Priscilla Doe in order to protect her identity -- who was allegedly fired from one job and discriminated against at another as a result of her HIV-positive status, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. The federal lawsuit alleges that Casey's General Stores of Ankeny, Iowa, violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and various state antidiscrimination laws. The state lawsuit names a Nebraska restaurant -- known in the lawsuit as "Nebraska Restaurant" -- saying that it violated a state law barring discrimination on the basis of HIV infection. The woman was fired from Nebraska Restaurant, where she had served as a hostess for 10 months, days after the owner learned she was HIV-positive. Another worker said that the owner fired her because of her HIV-positive status. In addition, Doe's manager at Casey's allegedly told Doe that she wanted to fire her but could not and ordered Doe to wear gloves at all times, reduced her hours and told her not to tell anyone else about her HIV-positive status, according to the suit. Neither Doe nor Cooper, her attorney, would comment on the federal suit (Stoddard, Lincoln Journal Star, 11/14).