As World AIDS Day was celebrated around the world, experts discussed current and emerging HIV/AIDS legal and policy issues during the ABA webinar, “Celebrating World AIDS Day: A Roundtable Discussion of Current and Emerging Legal and Policy Issues.” The annual December 1 day of recognition continues to bring attention to the millions of people who have been infected with HIV, are living with it, and have died of it and related illnesses.
While many areas of concern exist, health care, housing and systemic racism and poverty top the experts’ list for immediate attention.
Scott Schoettes, counsel and HIV project director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said it is critical that issues concerning HIV/AIDS, “get back on track.” As the presidential administrations shifts, Schoettes said the future of the Affordable Care Act is critical to meet the goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 10 years.
According to Brad Sears, associate dean of public interest law at UCLA School of Law, if a written federal moratorium on evictions is lifted in Los Angeles in the coming months, hundreds of thousands of people will be evicted there and around the country.
Sears said the impact of the “eviction tsunami” will be significant. He said, “We know that housing is critical for people with HIV and or anyone who is vulnerable and trying to take care of a health care situation.”
He added that the legal services infrastructure will need to be “strong and expanded” to meet the arising needs.
Courtney Cross, assistant professor of Clinical Legal Instruction at the University of Alabama School of Law and director of the Domestic Violence Law Clinic, works with people targeted - and retaliated against - because of their positive HIV status. She favors reevaluating the criminal laws being used to mitigate the epidemic.
On the military front, Schoettes, who has represented Air Force service members fighting to prevent their discharge because of their HIV-positive status, said outdated military policies need revisiting because they are discriminatory.
Through the HIV/AIDS Impact Project, the ABA recently granted nine organizations funding from the HIV Legal Services Fund. Some $1.2 million will be dispersed to those organizations around the country that have enhanced the availability of HIV legal services in underserved U.S. areas.
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