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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

A Pre-Existing Condition Can Wreck Your Whole Day

By Thomas DeLorenzo

August 3, 2010

This article originally appeared at HuffingtonPost.com.

Early last year, I finally decided to take the plunge and go back to school and move my life in a completely new direction. I had decided to go to law school and study health policy law. A natural choice for a verbose person with AIDS, right? Apparently wrong. The best laid plans of mice, men and PR guys often go astray. This idea was apparently to be another one of them. The very condition that got me to this place, my very own virus, would be the final straw in this equation. Because of my HIV status, I am not able to obtain insurance in any other state but California. In fact, I have to do whatever possible to maintain the insurance I currently have. Despite the fact that it costs as much as small house payment. Its mere existence does not guarantee "health;" but merely offers a chance to access life saving medications and a patchwork of specialized physicians.

My HIV status reared its ugly head in many forms during this chapter in my life. A prominent corporate attorney based in Los Angeles told me to leave my HIV status off the application. Not only was I hurt and confused, for it had to be one of the cruelest things I have ever heard, but also that was the point in applying. How could I leave it off when all I had done with it was the very thing that made me stand out from the other applications?

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I was asked by an Admissions Counselor at Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire, if I was "physically able" to make it through the first year. I guess that it was their indirect way of asking me if I was going to drop dead from the stress of being a first year law student. The same school also asked me if I could live in a city with Mormons after the Prop 8 debacle in California. I reminded them that I already do that and apparently we co-exist quite well. At this point my expectations for other questions went directly to the gutter -- I mean what could I possibly expect from ignorant bigots?

Mid-life crises take many forms. Instead of opting for a Corvette or a Porsche, I decided to uproot my life and go to law school. Mine wasn't really a typical mid life crisis -- it was more of a completion of the road I was on when AIDS derailed my life. I was 32 when my partner died and I had no idea how many years it would take me to get back on my feet and stop feeling guilty for moving forward, or, frankly, just being alive.

My path would take nearly 15 years.

A few years ago I decided it was time to pursue more full time work. A job search ensued and eventually I realized that in order to move forward with my life, I would need to go back to school. Working as a freelance PR consultant means I don't have a corporate track record that other people can see and easily understand. You are going to have to actually read my resume to "get" me -- and honesty how many people even bother?

Grad school was in my cards, but which degree? MBA or JD? PhD in Public Health or JD? JD? It just kept coming back to law school. You see, I had the biggest reason in the world for running -- my father is an attorney -- and I always tried to be my own person, very purposely, stubbornly so at times, creating my own path, my own identity. My own identity would happen; I just didn't know it would take a virus to help me along.

Writing for this very blog, meeting with officials on "the Hill", and my interaction with people that read my work, convinced me that law was it. With a JD I could go on to become an advocate for people that could not speak for themselves. I could take my work further and accomplish even more with my activism. I could help with health care reform. I could open doors for others that up until now were closed. It was going to be my own gay, HIV-infused version of "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington." I was mad as hell and I wasn't going to take it anymore.

That is until my very own nasty little pre-existing condition completely froze up my law school machine.

I had made it rather successfully through the painful morning more commonly called the LSAT. I survived prep classes and tutors. I spent nearly 50 hours writing my personal statement, plainly put -- "the why" in why I want to go to law school. I spent countless hours filling out application after application, begging for fee waivers. I had overcome it all. I was accepted to amazing schools all over the country. I even had scholarships at most of these schools.

But there would be one item on my checklist that I could not change. For you see the very reason that drove me to law school, the very thing that caused me to get off my ass and move forward with my grief-ridden life, was the very thing that kept the door closed for me. My very own HIV status, the virus which I have become more than familiar with, and thought I had worked out a survival agreement with, would be the very thing that would keep me in Los Angeles.

When the President spoke to a joint session of Congress in October 2009, he said very plainly, that upon signing the Health Care Reform Act that was creeping through Congress, pre-existing conditions would become a thing of the past. Those of us with medical problems that keep insurance away from us would no longer have to fear. We would be covered. However, this was not to be the case. Pre-existing conditions, unfortunately, are going to be here until 2014, and what happens then is not clear.

To be fair, I had inquired if my insurance situation would be the very thing that kept me in California, and the answer I kept getting was that schools offer policies for students, because they need to keep their grad students healthy in order to complete their degrees. In the midst of applying, taking the LSAT, and deciding what schools were right for me, the mind-numbing details of a student insurance policy were, honestly, not at the top of my list. I wrongly assumed that the health care reform would be my saving grace, and my very own pre-existing condition would lose its boogieman status and I could become, well for the lack of another word, normal, again.

I also did my due diligence, trying to cover all my bases and create new options for myself to maintain my coverage. The State of Virginia stepped up to the plate and started to set in motion paying for my coverage. They believed that it was best for all to continue my current coverage, instead of becoming completely dependent on the state for my health care needs. Washington State also did its part, turning me to the Director of Client Services at Lifelong AIDS Alliance, a group that I would need to have intimate knowledge of if I was going to succeed in Seattle.

But with each step I learned how precarious it would be to keep my current policy.

With every step there was a common theme -- do whatever you have to keep your current policy. In spite of the high price, I like my policy. It covers what I need and usually, when pressed, they cover some unusual things. Blue Shield has been very kind and generous to me -- yes, I said that -- an insurance company was all those things. After I left the hospital in 2001, Blue Shield called to see if I needed Home Health Care Services to ease my transition back to good health. I still remain amazed at that offer nearly 10 years ago.

The devil, however, is always in the details. And details I would become far too familiar with. After reading a stack of documents nearly four feet high, I discovered my Blue Shield of California policy clearly states that in order to qualify for residency status in California I would have to reside in California 180 plus days a year. How could I do that from another state? Is that possible with the State of Virginia writing checks to cover the cost? Well, to be honest, I would have to lie, or at the very least stretch the truth a bit. I could run back and forth, creating bills in a variety of states, sending up a smoke screen of confusion over the claims department.

Blue Shield of California did make an offer of sorts. I called them several times to inquire about insurance in another state and how would I transfer coverage to another Blue Shield. The first call, placed before the Health Care Reform Act, they informed me that I could transfer to another state; but they strongly advised me to purchase another policy because they could not guarantee that the transfer would happen. The final call, placed after the legislation was signed, Blue Shield informed me that I could transfer but I would have to move first, and they could not tell me what the new price would be nor could they tell me the details of the coverage in the other state. Simply put, I would have to give up my current coverage for the possibility of decent coverage at an affordable price in the new state. More and more, I was beginning to think that the only way to go would be to maintain the coverage in California, keeping my address, and seeing some doctors in Los Angeles to create an appearance of residency in Cali.

However, plainly put, I would have to commit fraud, one of those white collar moments that can creep up and bite you during the moral character interview for Bar Association Admission, never mind the fact that Blue Shield can cancel me and bill me for the time I was committing fraud. And all of this work, this money, this studying, this preparing, this reading, would become meaningless. For in spite of the fact I would be doing this to save my own life, fraud is still fraud, and they could potentially infer that I could easily do it again. That simple moment, the moment I reached out to save my life, to maintain my health because I had no other options, would be the very moment that would hang me.

What I have come to realize is this -- that no matter what the law says, it is only as good as the people enforcing it. For with the new health care reform, the law is only as good as the regulations that will come out of it. The regulations will define the moment and give the specifics on how we are to act. The regulations will take some of the gray out of it.

Is it such a bad thing to make sure everyone has health insurance? I mean we push auto and flood insurance on television and no one seems to blink an eye at that, right? Why not the same commercials offering a great health plan that would be available to all regardless? Why does it always take a catastrophe to get results in this country? Does the system move that slowly that it has to be jump-started to create a decision?

I now know more about the law regarding health care than I thought I would know at this time. I am not, however, in law school. I opted to go with health first and stay in Los Angeles and hold school off for now. I thought I could move mountains. I thought that if I worked on it hard enough and had learned all I could on my situation that I would be able to make this work. What I learned was sometimes there are roadblocks that no one can get past; no matter how hard they work.

I have heard the platitudes, the try to extract meaning from this moment statements, and frankly the only thing I think there is to extract from this moment is that people covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act face discrimination all on fronts, still to this day, no matter what that law says. The law is only as good as your attorney. Nothing is set in stone -- it is merely set in precedent. And people with disabilities are too sick or too poor or too tired to fight the system.

Maybe Billy Joel had it right -- "I found that just surviving is a noble cause." Maybe that's all I am supposed to do now -- survive.

I remain unsure as to my next direction. I took apart my life in Los Angeles for a life at a law school. I sold things, trashed others, turned down work, and started looking for apartments. I was nearly there. I was bucking the odds -- being a 47 year old man who happens to be a long term survivor with AIDS -- and moving on to law school. I was setting the precedent, only to have precedent hit me in the face and put my dreams on hold.

I am tired and confused. I cry during the day for what seems like no reason. I did what I was told ever since I was a young boy. Work hard, and focus, and you will get what you want. I guess because AIDS was not around when I was a kid, they could not have known what it would do to my very own equation. But when I was a kid, doctors made house calls and never said no to a new patient. And insurance just seemed to be there to help you.

I am not sure what step to take next, but I will tell you this. In spite of the pain and confusion, I know that for me merely surviving is not enough. I am here for a reason, and my life has meaning through my work. And even though I don't know how I am going to do it, I was supposed to be the first long-term survivor with AIDS in law school -- and to paraphrase my very own Governator -- I will be back.

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See Also
U.S. Health Care Reform

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Douglas S. (Hamilton Ontario Canada) Tue., Nov. 23, 2010 at 6:40 pm EST
Dear Thomas... many of us can identify with the incidious role that "gatekeepers" play in keeping "natural justice" in check. It is "justice" after all that you seek (for yourself & for others). As a long-time opponent of "injustice" I have come to learn that tidy legal language & natural justice are sometimes completely unacquainted. But there is a bright ideal here (and the brightest lights cause barriers to cast definite shadows) -- in the end every "gatekeeper" is limited by their "gate". Sometimes it's possible to dislodge the "hinges" (or grease them); other times it's possible to pick the "lock". And some gates rust out, decay, or collapse. This is about much more than pragmatic resiliency -- this is about standing up to injustice. Some of the bravest warriors battling stigma & prejudice do not have law degrees.
It should be remembered that most institutions & many corporations (including insurance companies) have appeal boards. When you look at the composition of the average [insurance company] appeal board, you may well be impresssed by the professional representation. Most (if not all) of these professionals use ethics codes to guide their practises. Ethics codes dictate "minimal" behaviours -- things that keep them out of trouble (professionally speaking).
These codes are never "aspirational". They seldom allow professionals to "do the right thing for the right reasons".
It has been my experience that given the opportunity to do so, MANY will opt for "doing the right thing". Most people actually recognize (and value) "natural justice". I've seen insurance decisions reversed on compassionate grounds based solely upon an appeal framed in "aspirational" ethics.

Your writing evinces a keen sense of natural justice. No gatekeeper can diminish this.
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Comment by: violet (farmland ohio) Tue., Sep. 7, 2010 at 6:13 am EDT
very encouraging your blog. thanks for that. i, too, am facing the downhill battle of preexisting prejudice with my disability insurance for having Hep C and developing end stage liver disease. i am a nurse, and did believe in my profession until i got sick and found out that my worst fears are confirmed. doctors don't care. i am angry. obama didn't change this! let's band together. people like us feel like we can't get past those obstacles, but why not? come on! i feel for those who cannot speak for themselves and realize i will be them one of these days. so let's do something now while we still can.
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Comment by: Sat., Aug. 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm EDT
Thomas thanks for you post/blog. Here positive since 1984 been back to college 2 times started meds 8 years ago still remain with same employer, healthy would like to go back to college actually taking exams to do so, but maintaining insurance and paying for HIV meds is main concern. 49 years old here would could be accepted in Jan. but that pre exisiting discrimation does not go away till 2014 if then... still looking with hope. Insurance and pharm companies have been allowed to stop the dreams of people that use/need their services it has to end somewhere. I would chose you as a lawyer, and you would choose me in my field I am sure, my best your way
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Comment by: Mike (San Francisco, CA) Thu., Aug. 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm EDT
You could have had diabetes or sickle cell anemia and have been in the same boat. How about working full-time and doing a part-time master's or Ph.D.? Lots of folks do that.
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Comment by: Neil (Baltimore, MD) Thu., Aug. 12, 2010 at 11:42 am EDT
Are you married? If not I would really love to propose :-)
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Comment by: Natalie (New York Metro Area) Mon., Aug. 9, 2010 at 4:55 pm EDT
I am concerned that you were given incorrect advice. As some of the other posts have indicated, you can keep your residency in California as a student in a different state (indeed, when I moved from California to New Jersey to attend law school, I did just that). The downside is that you have to pay out-of-state tuition anywhere but California. But that is a doable trade-off, particularly with law school loans being as "cheap" as they are today (I locked mine in at under 3 %). Here's what I suggest- apply to any and all law schools that you are interested in attending. When you get your acceptance letters, as I am sure that you will, contact each law school's dean of students. It'll give you a good feel for the school's support and they should help you through red tape. And as for post-law school applications, remember this... the times are a-changin'. My law school counselor actually recommended that folks make sure they come out on their hiring applications, be that as LGBT and/or as HIV positive. Maybe you do need to head east, young man! :) Good luck! And again, do some more research because your experience so far has been very different from mine and so ignore the nay sayers and find someone more experienced at the law schools you wish to attend.
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Comment by: Dianne (Bronx, New York) Mon., Aug. 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm EDT
"I did what I was told ever since I was a young boy. Work hard, and focus, and you will get what you want." There are so many people who have worked very hard and focused diligently, but discovered sooner or later that the American dream is reserved for only a privileged elite, not everyone who earnestly pursues it. For you, it was HIV that excluded you from the dream. If you came here to the Bronx and talked to my neighbors, you would hear one heartbreaking tale after another of how working hard wasn't enough to survive with dignity, let alone make dreams come true.
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Comment by: Hal C. (Wilmington, North Carolina) Mon., Aug. 9, 2010 at 10:23 am EDT
You are one empowering cat! Both within yourself and spreading your good energy to others. Well done, bully for you (as they used to say in England), stay the course, you shall prevail.
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Comment by: JB (Texas) Mon., Aug. 9, 2010 at 10:08 am EDT
There are multiple law schools in LA and many in CA. You don't even have to leave LA; they are in your own backyard so don't blame not going on HIV. And you're not the first person in law school with HIV...
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Comment by: rusty (Fairfax VA) Sun., Aug. 8, 2010 at 12:34 am EDT
I work, live in Virginia, My insurance is BC/BS in another state, and its part of my retirement plan. Although I work and live in VA, my policy works as if I am in VT. My doctors are out of plan, but covered by my policy. BC/BS of VA processes my claims and sends them off to BC/BS of VT, who pays the bill. I dont understand why you had to transfer your coverage, especially since your state of residence would be the same. My BC/BS admin never questioned my location; I travel to where I can find work, and you would be travelling where you would go to school.

I think you have been given some very bad information. As for locating a job and getting health insurance, go to school in Massachusetts, health care is MANADATORY; if you can't find a policy, then for 500.00/year the state will give you one.
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Comment by: Steven S. (Minneapolis, MN) Sat., Aug. 7, 2010 at 3:11 pm EDT
How sad that someone as intelligent and honorable as Thomas with his mission to educate himself and be of service to humanity must navigate through all these obstacles and nonsense. And denied his constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The US is light years behind in the humanity department when it comes to health care.
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Comment by: ch672 (zambia) Sat., Aug. 7, 2010 at 7:27 am EDT
I believe that you will overcome whatever obstacles you are facing now because you beleive in yourself and what you are pursuing.
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Comment by: mark (DUbai, UAE) Sat., Aug. 7, 2010 at 7:19 am EDT
I've known that I am postive for ELISA test on my birthday, August 3rd. And waiting for confirmatory tests (PCR na Western BLOT), but I knew that I will be positive on both of them. Now, I just need to plan about myself, go home to Philippines and get treated and never come back here in UAE. And hoping I can find my life in my home county.. It;s just so difficult for me but I need to do this for my ealth sake. I need to be treated soon.
Thanks for your story.
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Comment by: Raymond (Manchester, NH) Sat., Aug. 7, 2010 at 7:07 am EDT
Tom: I know your frustration, anguish, anger and hurt.. I live in NH where the director of public health (the agency administering prevention AND treatment monies/programs) has publically stated that HIVers ought to get meaningful or "special" considerations of support. He turned down legislatively appropriated monies and stated he woulkd deal with any "shortfalls" by raising eligibility standards and limiting the formulary. His staff publically "supports" him and privately reviles his positions. It is demoralizing, spiritually corrosive and just bad politics, but is is what we contend with in a "low incidence state" with a growing infection rate. We are a voicelss and faceless minority relegated to second class status without representation at any policy making level. Thank you for drawing attention to one more area of "less than" with we have to contend everyday.
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Comment by: Laurent (Nantes, France) Sat., Aug. 7, 2010 at 6:49 am EDT
Thomas, thanks for writing and posting this article. You've endured a lot of bureaucracy and it's worn you down, of course. Most people couldn't even bear to look at it. As others have suggested, you need to pat yourself on the back, Thomas, for all you have done and endured so far in this quest to get into law school, but you now need too to change direction slightly. If they're forcing you to study in California you can either expend your energy on studying in California OR you can expend your energy on fighting for the right to study elsewhere. In the long-run, Thomas, what's the best thing to do, for you? Isn't it to get qualified as soon as possible and start working and so start changing the system? I always say to my students who are applying to universities: at the end of the day studying is about YOU applying YOUR mind in HOURS and HOURS of meticulous study. You can do that at any university.
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Comment by: papa_j (Atlanta, GA) Fri., Aug. 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm EDT
I suffered from end-stage AIDS, became stabilized, and today I'm healthy with an undetectable viral load. I depended on Medicaid, ADAP and Ryan White funding. Don't be afraid to pursue your dreams. Federal and State programs such as the above-listed will always be an option for you to apply for.
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Comment by: Henry (NYC) Fri., Aug. 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm EDT
I agree that the health care patchwork in the US is completely torn but I was under the impression that even before the latest "reform" existing HIPPA laws allowed individuals to swicth policies as long as there was no lapse in coverage? Maybe this only applies to group coverage through an employer? How sad that in this country, as opposed to most of Europe, Canada, Australia, we are held prisoners by such arcane and inhumane policies that only serve to incentivize people to go on welfare rather than try and better themselves and contribute to society? There are the new high risk pools that require a 6 month lapse in coverage after being turned down for insurance in order to be accepted in a new policy even with a PEC. Maybe you can go that route and have ADAP fill in for the 6 months?
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Comment by: Linda Phillips (N Charleston SC) Fri., Aug. 6, 2010 at 12:25 pm EDT
You give the devil too much credit, I vaguely read the entirety of the article. I believe regardless of our status as long as we have life and breath in our bodies we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. I work for a disability center and see people who have it worse than us and are graduating fro Colleges. Dont limit yourself or allow other peoples ignorance to limit you
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Comment by: Jerry Robbins (Saint Petersburg FL) Fri., Aug. 6, 2010 at 8:55 am EDT
There is certainly a civil rights case here and this needs to go to the civil rights commision
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Comment by: Dre (E.C., NC) Fri., Aug. 6, 2010 at 12:50 am EDT
Strive forward even when all possibilities are hopeless. Ultimately, you want to do this so don't give up. I'm here for you Thomas DeLorenzo.
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Comment by: Native of CA (Los Angeles) Fri., Aug. 6, 2010 at 12:01 am EDT
Thank you for sharing your story. I put off a 3 yr plus post grad law school when I was told I would not live 2 yrs. It is now 25 yrs later.

I, too, was thinking of getting back on the track that disappeared beneath my feet. Altho the meds have made me a bit less sharp initellectually.

I have also been thinking of a change of location to another state but the thought of insurance uncertaintly has made me reluctant.

Your story is dispiriting. But what about law schools in CA? There are some of the best.

Here is another thought: there are many of us long term survivors who are on a quest for the purpose of our survival. We would like to use our often horrific life experiences to make meaning and a contribution in life.

Perhaps we need to band together to create a new organization that creates the work and the purpose we seek for ourselves.

It is shocking to me that even our so-called AIDS organizations have not implemented any affirmative hiring policy to help us get back to work. We are more qualified than most. We understand better than anyone else. Perhaps we start by demanding these agencies hire us first. They may not discriminate against those with HIV but they surely may conduct themselves with hiring preferences.

We built those agencies. They have a duty to employ our expertise, not just serve those who would be dependent.

Keep us posted on what you decide next.
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Comment by: Loreen Willenberg (Sacramento, CA) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 7:49 pm EDT
Oh! Thomas, my dear! Hang on to your dream with all of your might. You will find a way, I know you will. Don't let this incredibly stigmatizing system divert you from your journey, because we need you to practice law. As you said yourself: "...no matter what the law says, it's only as good as the people enforcing it." You are brilliant, you are driven and you would be one of the best! Sending you lots of strength & love!
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Comment by: Jerry Robbins (Saint Petersburg FL) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 7:49 pm EDT
Fight why do we have to fight harder than anyone else when we are sick already. It may be a battle but an attorney pro bono might be able to help you. Their out there I know.
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Comment by: Jared (LA, CA) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm EDT
If state residency is the issue for keeping your insurance, why not go to law school in California? What's wrong with getting your JD from UCLA, USC, Berkeley or Stanford? My sense is that you are too smart and useful to do more than "just survive" in this world. I'm a PhD student with HIV and I know first-hand some of the challenges this illness poses when it comes to the demands of grad school. I also have discovered unfortunately that academia--with all its stated ideals of fair play--is filled with small-minded people who are willing to stigmatize those with HIV rather than understand our very human situations. For this reason, I share my condition VERY selectively among my academic colleagues and seek support for my condition in my family and friends (only two of whom are also academics). I have seen more than one person's job opportunities squashed because a hiring committee doesn't want a faculty member on their hands whose slack they might have to pick up due to illness. Nevertheless, I have found a way to carry out long-term research abroad with HIV, get my M.A., publish articles, present my research at conferences, and fly through my Ph.D. with now only my dissertation remaining. When our plans our foiled, that means only we need to find an alternate route to them. You can go to law school, Thomas--it may not be exactly where and when you want to go, but don't let that defeat you.
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Comment by: Chance (Houston,TX) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm EDT
I am an Attorney. I am positive. I was positive in Law School, this was in the 80's, so I know first hand how devastating HIV was to me and my partner and friends when , at that time HIV was a death sentence. I lost my partner 6 months after passing the bar. Father was an attorney. Brother was an Attorney. However I had to work two jobs while I was in law school and paid my own way without any grants , loans, scholarships. My lover/partner was ill for 4 years , in and out of the hospital. I was 32 when he died and a "Baby" Attorney. I was devastated all during law school because he was so sick and hospitalized. I wanted to give up but never did. My father and brother never ever paid one cent for any of my education , even though they could have. It is ok , it made me even stronger. Sorry, but I got off my ass quick. I didn't wait 15 years to decide what to do. I knew that I had to function and function I have. I have outlived a number of friends and family, including my father and brother and run my own law firm. I do get depressed at times, that is only normal, however I get up everyday, work and workout. It is hard , everyday is hard, but that is life. I finally got into the state's high risk insurance group and still pay a high price for my insurance. I am not a superman, just a guy who has had the crap kicked out of him since he was eleven, but I never gave up and I certainly did not whine . I knew that to give up would dishonor all the friends and my partner I have lost to HIV. I read your previous installments and was somewhat impressed but now feel that you feel entitled. No one has the right to feel they are entitled. Reading your last installment I thought, I can see other avenues that this individual never even tried. For example, a "student" is a resident of his original state until he declares otherwise. That is way you pay "out of state tuition. Maybe you weren't meant to be an Attorney if you gave up so easily.
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Comment by: Neil (Baltimore, MD) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm EDT
Atta boy Thomas! For a second there I thought you were going to give up. I encourage you to pursue this quest, not necessarily to become "Super HIV Attorney Man", but because this is important to you!

Your happiness come before anything, and yes you deserve it. You are capable of doing anything you want, that's obvious, but don't let the stupidity rampant in this hellish fearful, bureaucratic, money mongering, society we live in dissuade you from your goal.

As a person living with this virus myself, and after the deaths of partner and that of a friend of mine who I knew for 31 years, and my own brush with death, I have decided to go back to school myself, because I know that I could work this system as much as it tries to work us, and I'm older than you are! But I'll be damned if anyone, is going to stop me from reaching my goal. They will be squished like that roaches they are! If you need to use deceit that use deceit! As scrupulously as you can of course. Keeping you ethical conscious intact. But also keep in mind, how many attorneys do you know of that are above using the magic of deception to get what they want? I would say few. Deception as I know it, can have so many interpretations at any given point, that one can twist and turn it, until it resemble Themis herself! Of course, ultimately this is between you and your conscience. But I say, if they (the insurance company) have chosen their weapons, you have a right to choose yours.

Personally, I would get all Hobbesian on them, and throw myself into that state of nature, that only they play from. I have seen so much damage done by insurance companies and just plain stupid people, that I think it's time again to start flinging some S*^t back.

You have survived a killer, many of us have. Don't let this bump on a pickle stop you.

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Comment by: CCHAP (Clearlake, CA) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm EDT
Have you considered moving north and attending Golden Gate University in SF? Friends who have graduated from there, tell me they got a good ed in law. I hope you stay on the journey. Best of luck.
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Comment by: J. P. Minsinger (San Francisco, CA) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm EDT
I am sorry for you not being able to attend law school. I was surprised that the pre-existing conditions does not go into effect until 2014. I have faced hurdles because of having an AIDS diagnosis since 1994, but never a situation as difficult as you encountered.

Is it possible for you to go to law school in California?
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Comment by: Mark (Minneapolis, MN) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 3:24 pm EDT
I can certainly understand your frustration my insurance keeps me in a state with bitter cold winters and no option of moving with out losing my insurance.
I hope you find the road that leads you to happier days
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Comment by: anon (UK) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm EDT
Why not go to law school in California?
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Comment by: Mark S. King (Fort Lauderdale, FL) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm EDT
What a maddening comment on health care in the U.S. of A. Our health care system (and our public disability system, for that matter) aren't equipped for people to travel, have ambitions, or do much more than lay down and die.

Hope springs eternal, though, and something tells me that the legal world hasn't heard the last of you, Thomas. Keep it up.
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Comment by: maryellen cooley (spokane) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm EDT
Once again, I am staggered by your energy and intelligence and the eloquence of your prose.
I worked in the Seattle clinic there and it seemed there were so many students at that time, and many of them had pretty awesome coverage through the state. There is so much help in Seattle! And how about Gonzaga U here in Spokane, where there is also really good care, not to mention a fantastic law school!
You would be a jaw-droppingly great lawyer for the right reasons. Each of us owes it to ourself and everyone to do what it is we can do to help.
It sounds like you've put forth so much passion and hard work here. Maybe there's a loophole, maybe there's a way. I wish you light and encouragement and the planets all in alignment on this noble quest. I hope it manifests in a tenable and powerful way. You are just so amazing!
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Comment by: TW (New York) Thu., Aug. 5, 2010 at 2:52 pm EDT
Why couldn't you get your medical care through a Ryan White program? Did you check out NYC? We have ADAP Plus, ADAP, etc. Please see link: http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/aids/resources/adap/index.htm
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Who Knew So Few T Cells Could Accomplish So Much?


Until just a few years ago, Thomas DeLorenzo never would have believed he could become an HIV/AIDS activist. Before he was "officially" diagnosed with HIV in 2001 -- with 60 T cells and a viral load of 300,000 -- DeLorenzo had been living in denial. And until 2006, he was too busy dealing with the many side effects of his own HIV meds to think about helping anyone else. Then he and his doctors finally figured out the perfect med combo -- and, finally, DeLorenzo felt that he actually had a future.

DeLorenzo lives in Los Angeles with his partner and is currently attending law school at Southwestern University School of Law. His career goals include making sure all Americans have access to adequate and affordable health care. Prior to law school, DeLorenzo worked as a publicist in the entertainment industry, representing many award-winning celebrities.

In 2006, The New York Times named him an Unsung Hero in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS for his Christmas Goody Bag Project for the residents of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation Hospice. In 2008, DeLorenzo was the San Antonio AIDS Foundation's Angel of the Year. DeLorenzo's alma mater, Hofstra University, named him Alumnus of the Month in August 2009 for his work on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS. DeLorenzo was recently appointed to the City of West Hollywood's Disabilities Advisory Board.


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