May 10, 2013
In Mississippi's first medical-legal partnership, the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and the Mississippi Center for Justice, both based in Jackson, will partner to provide free civil legal services for people with HIV/AIDS. The partnership includes the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation and the Mississippi State Department of Health's (MSDH's) Crossroads Clinics Central.
The Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm, will provide onsite legal assistance at the Crossroads Clinics Central that will focus mainly on HIV-related employment and housing discrimination. In a press release, Marni von Wilpert, Mississippi Center for Justice Skadden legal fellow, stated that persons with HIV/AIDS "often lack access to legal resources. This program will help ensure they are treated fairly so they can lead productive, fulfilling lives." Dr. Claude Brunson, UMMC professor of anesthesiology and senior advisor to the vice chancellor for external affairs, declared, "While we have made significant medical advances in managing HIV/AIDS, the ultimate success in improving these peoples' lives is getting them back into society as full productive members. This partnership aims to achieve that goal."
The demand should be heavy as, according to CDC, Jackson has the fourth highest HIV infection rate of all US metropolitan areas reporting HIV infection information. A recent MSDH study found that Mississippi's African-American population comprised 78 percent of new infections. The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission noted that the state ranks 49th in funding civil legal services. The United States has 97 medical-legal partnerships serving 54,000 patients yearly at more than 275 healthcare institutions.