Iraqi War Veteran Wins HIV-Related Discrimination Suit under Americans with Disabilities Act
By Lynn Shapiro, Staff Writer
In a winning case involving discrimination against HIV-positive and AIDS patients, an Iraqi war veteran who sued OSS Heath for denying her aquatic therapy in 2015 has reached a settlement with “the company and others in the case,” according to the York Daily Record in a story filed in this month.
According to the York Daily Record, the plaintiff identified herself by the pseudonym, Bonnie Jones, since AIDS is stigmatized, even in developed countries like the U.S., and she didn’t want her name made public.
Jones filed her suit in U.S. District Court in 2016. The complaint also named Drayer Physical Therapy Institute, which runs the program and Timothy Burch, a physical therapist, as defendants.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
ADA’s Strong Protections
Individuals with HIV or AIDS benefit from strong protections under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). At least they did under Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta E. Lynch, who led the fight against AIDS discrimination.
Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is expected to side with defendants’ bar, against AIDS’ victims’ rights.
Yet, even under the draconian Sessions, the ADA still provides effective support for people with both HIV and AIDS.
Ohio Healthcare Success
One of former Attorney General Lynch’s successful cases includes a Justice Department settlement with Ohio Healthcare System in January, 2015, after a patient’s primary care physician refused to accept her as a new patient due to her HIV diagnosis.
The department’s investigation concluded it was the doctor’s policy to refer any patients with HIV to an infectious disease specialist.
Genesis Healthcare includes a hospital, a network of more than 300 physicians, and outpatient health care centers throughout southeastern Ohio.
“Exclusion of patients with HIV creates unfair and illegal barriers to medical care…” said Acting Assistant Attorney General, Vanita Gupta, for the Civil Rights Division, under President Obama.
“Under the law, healthcare providers cannot deny care or refer a patient to a specialist unless the decision is based on current medical knowledge about the particular patient and condition, not on stereotypes about a disability.”
Genesis Healthcare System paid $25,000 to the victim and $9,000 in civil penalties.
In addition, Genesis was told to brief its staff on the specifics of the American with Disabilities Act, as well as develop a non-discrimination policy and report to the department every time a person is denied or discharged as a patient, with a written justification for the decision.
The settlement agreement was part of a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices across the nation to target enforcement efforts in a critical area for individuals with disabilities, access to healthcare.
In a memo to the Justice Department of December, 2015, Lynch said, “the Department of Justice is firmly committed to eradicating discrimination against people living with HIV/ADS. Such discrimination compromises our defining values, violates our founding ideas, and has a profound and deeply unfair impact on individuals who need and deserve our support.
“That is why the Department of Justice is using every tool at our disposal and working across the federal government to make the ADA’s promise of equal treatment a reality for all Americans”.
We can only hope that Sessions won’t try to eviscerate this vital right.