June 17, 2013
Fifteen years ago, on June 26, 1998, the lead story in the New York Times read: “People with HIV infection can be covered by the federal law that bars discrimination on the basis of disability even if they have no symptoms, the Supreme Court ruled today in a major victory for people with the virus that causes AIDS.”
The case was Bragdon v. Abbott, which involved a Maine dentist refusing to treat a woman with HIV. The victorious lawyer representing Sidney Abbott was Ben Klein, Director of the AIDS Law Project of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
“While people living with HIV can now live longer and with less fear of discrimination, stigma has certainly not gone away,” said Klein. “There is much work still to do to ensure that people with HIV can live full lives unencumbered by discrimination.”
To mark the anniversary, GLAD is rolling out a series of educational materials about the legal rights of people living with HIV:
• GLAD’s new shareable graphic illustrates the protections that people living with HIV enjoy under the Americans with Disabilities Act as a result of the victory in Bragdon.
• GLAD’s podcast about the Bragdon case tells the story of how the refusal of a dentist in Maine to treat Ms. Abbott became the basis for nationwide protections for people living with HIV.
• GLAD has produced new editions of the Overview of Legal Issues for People Living with HIV for the six New England states. The overviews explain the legal rights of people living with HIV in employment, health care, privacy, and more.
GLAD has litigated over 100 HIV-related cases over the years, and is currently focusing on access to health care for people living with HIV. GLAD is spearheading the Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition in Massachusetts, which supports legislation requiring insurance coverage of medical treatment for lipodystrophy, a debilitating and disfiguring side effect of HIV medications.