With Legal Needs Unmet, People With HIV May Lose What It Takes to Survive
April 10, 2015
The road to achieving an AIDS-free generation focuses heavily on treating and preventing HIV infection through medicine. But many people living with HIV (PLWH) face a wide array of barriers to accessing the care they need and meeting their basic needs. If we hope to move toward a day when we no longer have to worry about HIV infection, we must look beyond medicine and pay better attention to the lived experiences of PLWH, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances.
Looking at the legal needs of PLWH provides a window to understanding the barriers people face in their daily lives. Without access to justice, PLWH are at risk of losing the very supports that make survival possible -- including income, health care and housing. In a study released last week by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, we looked at the legal needs of almost 400 PLWH in Los Angeles County. Our participants were mostly low-income individuals, and many identified as gender, sexual and racial/ethnic minorities.
The prevalence of unmet legal need among the respondents was much greater than we expected to find.
These legal needs included problems with the key aspects of daily living.
Some experiences, unique to certain minority groups, were particularly troubling.
If you understand how HIV stigma works, and the insidious ways in which HIV-based discrimination can impact the lives of PLWH, then perhaps none of this comes as a surprise. While the results of this study are not generalizable and cannot be applied to PLWH as a whole, they illustrate that for the many people we surveyed, living with HIV boils down to overcoming challenges and barriers in all aspects of daily life.
The implications of this study might not be novel or distinct, but they bear repeating: We need more funding, more research and more education if we are going to meet the needs of PLWH. It is only by addressing these needs that we can begin to contemplate a future generation without HIV infection, whether because we have found a functional cure or achieve success in removing all stigma associated with the disease.
Ayako Miyashita is the inaugural Brian Belt HIV Law & Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Previously, she provided direct legal services to low-income clients living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles' Skid Row area, and helped HIV-positive clients in the San Francisco Bay Area with immigration-related matters.
Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
This article was provided by TheBody.
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