HIV and Law School
Apr 7, 2013
Christa, I have a unique but challenging question. I am currently attending Law school at a private college and am someone who was diagnosed with HIV. My t-cell count has been as low as 60 but right now my viral load is undetectable with a t-cell count of 380. That being said I am noticing a change in being able to recall things that I have learned, my memory is not a crisp as it once was and because of illnesses that flair up from time to time I am missing classes. That said I am in the top 10% of my law school class but am feeling the pressure of some of the issues mentioned above. Considering the fact that I have HIV does this support me in registering with the office of student disabilities? Will this also protect me in the event that I exceed the ABA requirement of 20% of my absences in a class? lastly, if I am able to register because of this can this get me kicked out of law school?
Response from Ms. Douaihy
Thank you for writing in. The fact that you are HIV positive (even if you are asymptomatic at this writing) qualifies you for protections under federal anti-discrimination laws. Based on this, your private law school should consider one's HIV positive status sufficient medical grounds to deem one eligible for participation in the office of students with disabilities. And based on your story, I encourage you to avail yourself of any extra support made available through the office of students with disabilities. As your HIV condition seems to be causing you physical symptoms such as difficulty maintaining memory and excessive absences, I would argue that the school should do everything it can to reasonably accommodate you where feasible. At the end of the day you should be entitled to institutional modifications to ensure you are afforded equal opportunity to successfully participate in your school's programs.
Last, you absolutely cannot be terminated as a student simply because of your status! But you will have to meet designated academic standards. Talk to your school's administration to learn more about how they can accommodate your needs.
If you are within the top 10% of your class you probably already have a strong command of legal doctrine, principles and writing -- this is half the battle. With the right amount of tailored support I am confident you can continue on your successful trajectory to graduate law school, pass the bar examination and practice law someday.
I wish you all the best, soon-to-be counselor!
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