It's been 33 years since Lambda Legal won the nation's first HIV/AIDS discrimination case.
Because I am black, because I am a woman, because I am HIV-positive, Dr. Kur treated me as less than a person. -- Lambda Legal client Yvette Brown
People v. West 12 Tenants Corp. helped establish that under disability laws it is illegal to discriminate against people who have HIV.
But despite federal and local laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, people living with HIV continue to face discrimination in accessing health care.
Today, Lambda Legal is back in court, this time on behalf of a New York woman who was subjected to discriminatory treatment by a dentist because of her HIV status.
Yvette Brown, a 48-year-old sanitation worker, has been living with HIV for more than 24 years. In May, she went to the office of Dr. Benjamin Kur to have two teeth extracted.
After her procedure, Dr. Kur put in a prescription for pain medication for her post-surgical care. Yvette believes that the pharmacist indicated to Dr. Kur that she takes anti-retroviral medication. Based on this information, Dr. Kur canceled her prescription for pain medication, and refused to prescribe any pain medication for her despite the pain from extracting her two teeth.
According to Yvette, Dr. Kur took her into an office and confronted her about being HIV positive. When Yvette confirmed that she is HIV-positive, Dr. Kur screamed at her and called her "disgusting" and a "criminal." He threatened to call her insurance to drop her coverage. At some point, Dr. Kur accused her of putting him and his staff at risk.
Yvette was told to leave the office and to not come back.
Because I am black, because I am a woman, because I am HIV-positive, Dr. Kur and Westchester Oral & Maxillofacial Associates treated me as less than a person.
I was humiliated when he called me disgusting and a criminal; and was then kicked out of the office.
I never thought that a medical professional -- a person who is trained to care for you -- would be so cruel.
I am a private person and there were only a handful of people who knew I was HIV-positive before this happened to me, but I'm standing up today because I don't want this to happen to anyone else.
Scientific studies have consistently concluded that there is no significant risk of transmission of HIV from patient to dentist during dental treatment when universal precautions are routinely followed.
Richard Saenz, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney, says:
The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear nearly 20 years ago that federal law protects people living with HIV from discriminatory treatment when receiving dental care.