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Justice Dept. Settles HIV Bias Lawsuits

By Enid Vázquez

July/August 2012

The Justice Department has reached two settlements resolving claims that health care providers refused to serve people with HIV in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The first complaint was filed by a man with HIV who went to the Mercy Medical Group Midtown Clinic in Sacramento and was incorrectly told by the podiatrist seeing him that surgery was not an option because of the risk of the surgeon contracting HIV from him.

The second complaint was filed by a man with HIV who went to the Knoxville Chiropractic Clinic North for chiropractic treatment following an automobile accident, where a doctor determined that he needed 24 appointments to treat his injuries. However, he was informed on his third visit that the clinic could not treat people "like him." The Justice Department determined that the Knoxville Chiropractic Centers had a blanket policy of refusing treatment to people with HIV in violation of the ADA.

"It is critical that people with disabilities, including HIV, not be denied equal access to goods and services, especially to health care services. The Civil Rights Division takes discrimination based on unfounded fears and stereotypes about HIV very seriously," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

The settlement agreements require the entities to develop and implement a non-discrimination policy and to train staff on the requirements of the ADA. In addition, Mercy Medical Group and CHW Medical Foundation are required to pay $60,000 to the complainant and $25,000 as a civil penalty, and Knoxville Chiropractic Centers is required to pay $10,000 as a civil penalty.

Announcement of the settlements was made in May.

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