WASHINGTON, March 28, 2022 —The American Bar Association’s HIV/AIDS Impact Project will honor Yolanda French Lollis, William D. McColl, Armen Merjian, Jesse Milan, Jr. and Scott Schoettes for their sustained commitment and excellence in HIV/AIDS advocacy with Alexander D. Forger Awards.
The awards will be presented on May 11 at the HIV/AIDS Law and Practice Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Alexander D. Forger Awards for Sustained Excellence in HIV Legal Services and Advocacy honors lawyers and legal service providers who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to the advancement of the rule of law for individuals living with HIV and the provision of direct legal services to individuals affected by HIV.
“Our awardees are recognized for their outstanding commitment to assisting those living with HIV. They are committed to serving those living with HIV/AIDS in all aspects of how the condition impacts clients’ lives,” said Margaret Drew, chair of the ABA HIV/AIDS Impact Project. “Whether this be housing or workplace discrimination, limited medical access or other legal concerns faced by those living with HIV, our awardees have made significant improvements in their clients’ lives and are determined advocates for change.”
This year’s honorees are:
Yolanda French Lollis has served as managing attorney at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania since 1993. Since joining the AIDS Law Project, she has represented people living with HIV at their Social Security Administration disability hearings and has won hundreds of thousands of dollars in retroactive benefits for people who were wrongfully denied Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income. In 1998, Lollis initiated the HIV and Immigration Project at the AIDS Law Project. She has successfully represented people living with HIV in getting asylum, legal permanent residency and U.S. citizenship. Immigration lawyers across the nation frequently consult her for advice and technical assistance about overcoming the barriers to immigration for people living with HIV. Although most of her work involves Social Security and immigration, Lollis also represents people living with HIV in a broad range of issues, including discrimination, private disability benefits and estate planning.
William D. McColl, former vice president for policy and advocacy for AIDS United, has been an advocate on behalf of the HIV/AIDS community, alcohol and other drug treatment and reform issues and criminal justice reform for more than 20 years. His work has included implementation of health care reform, strengthening Medicaid, Medicare and the Ryan White CARE Act, implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, syringe service program issues and ending HIV-specific prosecutions, increased punishment and government-sponsored discrimination against people with HIV. Prior to his tenure at AIDS United, McColl worked to shape national policies on syringe exchange, treatment instead of incarceration and drug policy reform as the national affairs director at Drug Policy Alliance.
Armen Merjian is one of the nation’s leading HIV/AIDS and civil rights attorneys. For more than two decades at Housing Works/HIV Law Project, Merjian has conducted impact litigation on issues involving HIV/AIDS, homelessness, public benefits, disability, gender and housing discrimination. He has litigated numerous landmark cases, including Hanna v. Turner (establishing the right of homeless New Yorkers living with AIDS to same-day placement in emergency housing, the first ruling of its kind in the United States). Merjian is co-author of the national treatise, “AIDS and the Law,” is a member of the ABA’s HIV/AIDS Impact Project and a contributing author of “Tenants & Landlords NYC: Not a Love Story.” He is the author of 17 law review articles on human and civil rights and has also written about human rights law, poverty law, law and public policy, immigration law and criminal law.
Jesse Milan, Jr., is the president and CEO of AIDS United and a community advocate and nationally recognized expert on HIV/AIDS policies and programs. Having lived with HIV for over three decades, Milan is a recognized leader in the HIV community. He served a five-year appointment as co-chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Advisory Committee on HIV and STD Prevention and Treatment (CHAC) beginning in 2002 and in 2007 was designated a Fulbright senior specialist in Global HIV/AIDS.
Scott Schoettes is former HIV project director for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV. Shortly after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1999, Schoettes left a decade-long career in the theater and began his legal studies at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. While in law school, Schoettes was an associate editor of the Georgetown Law Journal, served as co-chair of Outlaw (the LGBT student group at the school), completed a fellowship with the Human Rights Campaign and volunteered as a counselor in the wills clinic at Whitman-Walker. After graduating magna cum laude in 2002, he clerked for the Honorable J. Frederick Motz in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
To learn more about the awardees, click here.
The HIV/AIDS Impact Project (formerly the AIDS Coordinating Committee) was established in 1987, at the height of the national hysteria about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Its purpose was, and remains, to identify and address legal and policy issues affecting or affected by the epidemic domestically and internationally, with a view to ensuring the rights of all concerned are respected and protected. It is a joint project of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and the Center for Human Rights.
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