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Enforcement Highlights

Fighting Discrimination Against Persons with HIV/AIDS

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Fighting discrimination on the basis of HIV/AIDS is a top priority of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Following are highlights of the Division's efforts to protect the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.


Emergency Medical Treatment

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- The Department resolved a complaint against the City of Philadelphia alleging that the City's emergency medical technicians (EMTs) had refused to assist an individual who they learned had HIV. Under the agreement, the City will no longer refuse to provide emergency services to individuals with disabilities. It will also discipline any employee who fails to follow the City s guidelines and will train the fire department s 2,300 EMTs and firefighters on ways to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS. In addition, the City will pay $10,000 in compensatory damages and issue a written apology to the complainant.


Dental Care

New Orleans, Louisiana -- A Federal court in Louisiana ruled in United States v. Morvant that a dentist, Dr. Drew Morvant, violated the ADA by referring persons with HIV or AIDS to another dentist, solely on the basis of the patients HIV-positive status. The court ordered Morvant to no longer discriminate against persons with HIV or AIDS, to adopt and post a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability, including HIV and AIDS, and to undergo training concerning HIV and the practice of dentistry. Under a consent order, Morvant also agreed to pay $60,000 in damages to the family of Ismael Pena, now deceased, who was one of the individuals denied services because he had AIDS, and $60,000 to another patient who had been denied services because of his HIV-positive status.

East Hartford, Connecticut -- The Department settled a complaint against a dental practice in East Hartford, Connecticut, alleging that the dentists refused to treat an individual because he had AIDS. Under the agreement, Doctors David, Schulman, and Weinstein paid $20,000 in compensatory damages to the estate of the complainant, and $9,000 in civil penalties. They also agreed to implement and publicize a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of HIV and AIDS.

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Houston, Texas -- Under a consent decree resolving a suit brought by the Department, Castle Dental Center, a large chain of dental offices in the Houston area, agreed to pay $80,000 in compensatory damages for refusing to treat a patient who revealed that he was HIV-positive. The owner of the Center and its management company also each agreed to pay $10,000 in civil penalties to the Federal Government. The agreement requires the defendants to provide full and equal services to persons with HIV or AIDS, train their staff in the nondiscriminatory treatment of persons with HIV or AIDS, and send periodic reports to the Department so that compliance with the order can be monitored.

Bangor, Maine -- In Abbott v. Bragdon, the Department has intervened as a party to defend the constitutionality of the ADA and is participating as a friend of the court on the merits of the case. The plaintiff in the case, Sidney Abbott, has alleged that the defendant, Dr. Bragdon, violated the ADA by refusing to provide her routine dental care on the basis of her HIV-positive status. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment, and oral argument was held in October 1995.


Volunteer Firefighters

Marshall County, Mississippi -- The Department settled two complaints involving the discharge of volunteer firefighters. One complainant alleged that he had been removed from membership in a county-funded volunteer fire department after the fire department learned he was HIV-positive. The other complainant alleged that he had been discharged because of his association with the first complainant. The County agreed to reinstate the complainants to regular membership as volunteer firefighters, pay each $1,000 in damages, and ensure that its fire departments will not retaliate against these individuals. The County also agreed to train its volunteer firefighters on universal precautions to prevent the transmission of HIV during firefighting activities, to issue a nondiscrimination policy, and to adopt procedures for reviewing future complaints.


Funeral Homes

Lancaster, California -- The Department settled a complaint against a funeral home that refused to provide funeral services to persons who died from AIDS-related complications. The owner of the funeral home refused to provide such services because of his fear of contracting HIV. After being contacted by the Department, the owner agreed to provide the services and to undergo training concerning universal precautions to prevent the transmission of HIV.


Moving Services

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- In October 1995, the Department sued a moving company that allegedly refused to provide moving services in Philadelphia to two former residents because a neighbor, who was present at the moving site, was infected with the AIDS virus. The suit seeks a court order prohibiting Bekins Van Lines from discriminating against persons with disabilities or their associates. The suit also seeks civil penalties, and damages for the residents and their neighbor.


Housing

Charlotte, North Carolina -- The Department brought suit under the Fair Housing Act challenging Charlotte s zoning law and the city s treatment of certain group homes. The suit alleges that Charlotte s zoning ordinance discriminates on its face by placing restrictions on housing for people with disabilities that do not apply to others, such as a one-quarter mile spacing requirement that applies only to group homes for people with disabilities. The suit also challenges the City s refusal to permit group homes for persons with AIDS, head injuries, and disabilities associated with aging to locate in single-family residential districts in Charlotte.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -- A Federal court in Pennsylvania ruled in United States v. Short that a landlord discriminated against the residents of a group home for persons with AIDS. The landlord harassed the tenants by posting a For Rent/For Sale sign on the property, and, at various times, attaching to the sign a plastic replica of a bull skull, a toilet seat, and a statue of the Lady of Justice, which was spattered with orange paint and wrapped in red tape. After the Court issued its ruling in favor of the Justice Department, the landlord agreed to stop harassing HIV-positive tenants and to pay monetary damages, including a $10,000 donation to the Verona House Corporation, for use in connection with the development and operation of a personal care home for persons with AIDS.


Technical Assistance/Outreach

Under its active program of technical assistance, the Civil Rights Division fields calls from businesses, government agencies, advocacy groups, and persons with disabilities through its toll-free ADA Information Line, and provides information and publications on how to comply with the ADA. It has also made presentations to persons with HIV/AIDS and the individuals who represent them; and provided technical assistance to organizations representing public accommodations that serve persons with HIV/AIDS, including the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the National Funeral Directors Association, and to various State and local governments.

This document is available in the following alternate formats for persons with disabilities --

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Audiocassette
  • Electronic file on computer disk and electronic bulletin board
  • (202) 514-6193.

To obtain these documents in alternate formats, call the Department of Justice AD Information Line, (800) 514-0301 (Voice), (800) 514-0383 (TDD).

Note: Reproduction of this document is encouraged.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by U.S. Department of Justice.
 
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