Recognizing World AIDS Day

November 30, 2012

On World AIDS Day 2012, the Department of Justice is proud to reaffirm its ongoing commitment to protect – and advance – the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.  And – in accordance with the objectives outlined by President Obama in the landmark National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we are working harder than ever to end discrimination that is still routinely – and tragically – experienced by those with HIV/AIDS. 

In recognizing World AIDS Day 2012, Attorney General Holder stated:

“The Department of Justice is determined to combat stigma and stereotypes by improving awareness and educating more people about their rights and responsibilities under federal law.  Together with our partners under the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we are committed to using every legal authority to ensure critical protections for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.”  

In pursuit of this goal, the department is taking critical steps to boost technical assistance, improve training, and expand outreach.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we’re making historic strides to educate everyone on federal protections for people with disabilities, including those living with HIV/AIDS.  To that end, the department has published “Questions and Answers: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Persons with HIV/AIDS,” – not only to make sure that people with HIV/AIDS understand their rights – but also to inform employers, businesses, and state and local governments of their responsibilities and legal obligations under the ADA. 

Beyond that, the department is pledging its best efforts – through its rigorous and ever-expanding enforcement work – to promote opportunity and access for persons with HIV/AIDS.  In May, the Justice Department announced two settlements resolving claims that health care providers refused to serve people with HIV in violation of the ADA.  Both settlement agreements mandated that the entities develop and implement a non-discrimination policy, train staff on the requirements of the ADA, and to pay a combined total of $60,000 to the complainants and $35,000 as a civil penalty.

And this past September, the Justice Department – together with the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania – reached a settlement with the Milton Hershey School of Hershey, Pennsylvania to resolve allegations that the school violated the ADA by rejecting an HIV-positive student.  In addition to a $15,000 civil penalty, the school was also required – under the terms of the settlement – to pay $700,000 to the child and his mother, adopt and enforce a policy prohibiting discrimination and requiring equal opportunity for students with disabilities (including those with HIV), and provide training to staff on the requirements established by the ADA. 

On World AIDS Day 2012, the Justice Department will continue to engage a growing circle of allies and use every available resource to develop long-term strategies for success.  To learn more about our work, please visit www.ada.gov/aids.