On December 1, as our country joins in observing World AIDS Day, the Justice Department stands with all people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30 years ago, the department has worked zealously, through enforcement, outreach, and technical assistance, to protect and advance the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS. This past year is no exception.
In recognizing World AIDS Day 2020 Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband gave the following statement:
“The Department of Justice is proud to play a central role in protecting the civil rights of individuals living with HIV and AIDS. On this day, the Civil Rights Division reaffirms its commitment to eradicating discrimination against those living with HIV or AIDS. Discrimination against individuals with HIV or AIDS is not only unlawful, it also is contrary to this nation’s ideals. As long as the unlawful treatment of persons living with HIV and AIDS continues, the Justice Department will continue its efforts to protect their rights.”
Notably, the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement efforts over the last year have helped ensure that people with HIV and AIDS are not turned away when seeking medical care because of unfounded fears and misinformation about the virus. In March 2020, the department entered into a settlement agreement with a nationwide pharmacy after an investigation substantiated that an individual was denied a flu shot after disclosing that he has HIV. The agreement requires the company to pay compensatory damages to the individual and a civil penalty to the government, and to provide training to all pharmacists on this issue.
Another settlement agreement resolved allegations that an individual, who due to back pain sought a breast reduction procedure at the recommendation of her primary care provider, was denied that procedure because she has HIV. The Illinois-based plastic surgery provider agreed to pay compensatory damages to the complainant and to ensure that its customers are aware that the practice welcomes patients with disabilities.
Still other resolutions addressed the ability of individuals living with HIV to access the vast array of goods, services, and privileges regularly available to all members of the public. One settlement agreement addressed the allegation that an individual with HIV was turned away by a provider of cosmetic medical procedures in California. The provider was required to pay compensatory damages to the individual and a civil penalty to the United States, and to provide training on ADA requirements. Another settlement agreement resolved allegations that an Illinois tattoo provider refused to provide tattoo services to a prospective customer who disclosed that she has HIV. The settlement agreement secured a monetary payment to the individual and the business adopted a non-discrimination policy.
Finally, this year we worked to ensure that children are not denied opportunities based on their actual or perceived HIV status. Specifically, we entered into a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that a daycare in New Jersey denied admission to the complainant’s child based on the perception that the child has HIV or hepatitis. The agreement requires the daycare to adopt a non-discrimination policy, train staff, and pay compensatory damages to the complainant.
As we support our federal agency partners in furthering the nation’s shared goal to eradicate HIV altogether, the department will continue its enforcement, outreach, and technical assistance work to ensure that people living with the virus enjoy their rights. Until the day when HIV is eliminated, we will act every day to stamp out the scourge of illegal discrimination against those living with the virus.
To learn more about the department’s work, please visit www.ada.gov/hiv.