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Newly Diagnosed or Long-Term Survivor -- What Everyone Should Know About HIV and Their Rights

September/October 2011

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Have a Rainy Day Plan -- Putting Things in Order

Everyone should plan for incapacity, regardless of their status. Life is unpredictable. Carry a wallet card with you with contact information for emergency caretakers. If you have a pet at home, carry a pet card to inform emergency care providers that there is a pet in your house that needs care and include information on who should be contacted in case you are ill or injured while away from home.

I also recommend having an ICE (In Case of Emergency) entry in the address book of your cell phone. That listing can help the paramedics call a family member, friend, or partner while you are riding to the hospital in the ambulance. Also, make sure your landlord or apartment building has updated contact information for you, including who can enter your apartment and have access to the important documents you will need.

Resources in Illinois

Chicago Commission on Human Relations
740 N. Sedgwick
Chicago, IL 60654

Cook County Commission on Human Rights
69 W. Washington Blvd., Suite 3040
Chicago, IL 60602

Illinois Department of Human Rights
100 W. Randolph St., Suite 10-100
Chicago, IL 60601

AIDS Legal Council of Chicago
180 North Michigan Ave, Suite 2110
Chicago IL 60601
312 427 8990

Three Essential Documents

Everyone should make a will, power of attorney for property, and power of attorney for health care and share the details of their financial affairs with their agents. This should include the location of all assets and vital documents such as insurance policies, passbooks, deeds, etc.

Double check your IRA accounts and their beneficiaries, pension funds and profit-sharing plans (employees should find out the circumstances under which they can borrow money from their pension or profit-sharing plan), or annuities.

Contact current and former employers to see if there are any pension or survivor benefits available to you. Make sure you still favor the beneficiaries named for those benefits. Review all life insurance policies to make sure the primary and contingent beneficiaries reflect current intentions. Exercise any rights to purchase additional life insurance on existing policies.

Keep in Control of Your Health Care -- Your Rights as a Patient

Each person should decide for themselves their choices regarding medical treatment. A health care power of attorney (HCPA) is the legal document in which you choose someone and give them the power to make medical decisions at a time when you cannot. Your doctor can rely upon the decisions of your agent if the doctor believes that you lack the capacity to give informed consent to health care treatment or even the refusal and termination of care.

In Illinois, an HCPA grants your agent the authority to give consent to and authorize, or refuse, or withhold any and all types of medical care and life-sustaining treatment, even if death would ensue. This would include the right to admit you to or discharge you from any and all types of hospitals, institutions, homes, residential or nursing facilities, or treatment centers.

  • Talk candidly and explicitly with your doctor about what you want him or her to do or not do, make sure you have a meeting of the minds.
  • Don't keep your HCPA in a safe deposit box. You may need it on the weekend when the banks are closed.
  • If you want to be at home, remember you always have the right to check out of a hospital if that's your desire. You are not a prisoner.
  • Or don't check into a hospital -- stay at home. It is easier to not start treatment than to terminate it once it has started.
  • The subjects of death and disability are not pleasant, but with modern medicine's ability to keep people alive longer, each person should make these decisions themselves.

This material is for informational purposes only and subject to the unique needs of each individual. As laws differ from state to state, please check the laws in your state and please consult your own attorney for specific answers to your individual needs and situation. A consultation with your attorney can answer questions about your individual rights for any of the matters raised in this article.

Roger V. McCaffrey-Boss, Esq. is an attorney in private practice in Chicago. He is a graduate of Hamlin University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota; a member of the Chicago Bar Association and LAGBAC; and has provided legal services and support to Chicago's LGBT community for more than 34 years. You may contact him at or 312-263-8800 with questions.

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This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.
See Also
More Info on Basic Legal Rights for HIV-Positive People

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