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AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania Sues Philadelphia Over Alleged Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Man by EMTs

December 3, 2003

The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania on Monday filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the city of Philadelphia on behalf of an HIV-positive man who said that city emergency medical technicians provided inappropriate care after they learned his HIV status, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. According to the suit, in February 2001, John Gill Smith made a 911 call reporting severe chest pains. However, when the emergency personnel learned that Smith was HIV-positive, one EMT left the house and another told Smith, "Cover your face or I'm not going to help you," according to the suit. The suit also alleges that the EMTs would not help Smith to the ambulance and would not let him lie down in the ambulance. The suit calls for unspecified monetary damages, a court order prohibiting future discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and mandatory training of EMTs on the "current medical knowledge concerning the manner of transmission of HIV between one individual and another, and the methods of preventing such transmission in a medical emergency." ALPP Executive Director Ronda Goldfein said that the suit indicates that continued training for medical personnel on HIV transmission issues is necessary, according to the Inquirer (Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/2) ALPP in 1993 won a settlement with the city in a similar case, but the project says that the city is not complying with its promise to retrain employees on proper responses to people living with HIV/AIDS, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 12/1). "Our goal is to make sure that EMTs respond appropriately to people with HIV/AIDS," Goldfein said, adding, "We thought, at first, that a lawsuit might slow things down. But this incident occurred in 2001, and we got the sense that the city wasn't taking this seriously." City officials could not be reached for comment about the lawsuit, according to the Inquirer (Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/2).

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