The virus affects minority groups in the United States at disproportionately high levels, worsening the epidemic in already-vulnerable populations.
The case of gymnast Matthew Cusick, fired due to his HIV status, highlights the reality of workplace discrimination and gives strategies to fight it.
An HIV vaccine might control or eradicate the virus, but research trials raise ethical and legal questions.
It seems to be a little known fact that HIV/AIDS is little understood, even in places where it has claimed many lives. In most countries, large percentages of people still believe that HIV is transmitted by casual contact: sharing utensils, shaking hands, or sitting in the same classroom with an HIV-positive person. This lack of awareness, which reflects underfunded or misinformed government educational campaigns on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, leaves people vulnerable to the virus and fuels the discrimination, stigma, and exclusion faced by people with AIDS.
Corporations do not operate in isolation. In fact, like nations and their populations, they have been deeply affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic as have nations and their populations. Some industries, such as the oil and extractives field, have reported that as much as 25 percent of their workforces have been infected with HIV. Recognition of these facts is now motivating multinational corporations and small- and medium-sized enterprises to become deeply involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, not merely for reasons of good corporate citizenship but increasingly out of a more comprehensive understanding of corporate self-interest.
HIV legal checkups are a prime example of a new public health law field that has emerged from the AIDS epidemic—health and human rights. In the mid-1980s, public health and AIDS civil rights seemed on a collision course. But when the Los Angeles City Attorney established the nation’s first AIDS discrimination unit in 1986, we were committed to demonstrating that this need not be the case.
Since 1987, the United States has sent a clear message to foreign nationals: if you are HIV-positive, keep out. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) labels HIV “a communicable disease of public health significance,” rendering those living with HIV/AIDS “inadmissible.” Applicants for temporary visas who self-disclose their sero-positive status or applicants for permanent residence who test positive for HIV during a required medical examination therefore will be prevented from entering the United States or obtaining legal permanent residence unless they meet the stringent requirements for an HIV waiver.
In light of its impact upon virtually all indicators of human well-being—from public health to national security—the global AIDS pandemic presents a quintessential human rights challenge affecting the vital interests of all nations and requiring a comprehensive, human rights-based approach if it is to be brought under control.
A Washington, D.C., clinic provides health and legal services to people affected by HIV/AIDS.