Highlights of Lambda Legal’s HIV and health care fairness work in 2014 and goals for 2015.
Lambda Legal scored many amazing victories this year in the fight for the rights of LGBT people and people with HIV. But we’re not done yet. This series showcases some of our proudest accomplishments in 2014, and explores some of the work that we still need to do to achieve full equality for the LGBT and HIV communities.
- Victory in Iowa: In a groundbreaking 6-1 decision, the Iowa Supreme Court set aside the conviction of Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive Iowan who was originally sentenced to 25 years in prison and required to register as a sex offender after having a one-time consensual sexual encounter with another man. Nick was arrested and sentenced under Iowa’s HIV criminalization law, despite the fact that he had an undetectable viral load and used a condom during the sexual encounter, resulting in no real risk—or actual transmission—of HIV.
- Great News for Louisianans with HIV: Lambda Legal sued BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana and two other Louisiana insurers after they announced they would stop accepting federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) third-party premium payments for lower-income people with HIV. We filed the lawsuit on behalf of John East, a part-time worker in the hospitality industry, and other lower-income Louisianans living with HIV. After Lambda Legal successfully prevented the Louisiana insurers from instituting this new policy, the federal government issued a rule requiring all qualified health plans to accept RWHAP assistance payments.
- Combatting HIV Criminalization Nationwide: Last summer, after advocacy by Lambda Legal and our partners, the Department of Justice issued guidelines urging against the criminalization of HIV. We continue to advocate for states to update their laws to reflect these guidelines, to defend those subject to prosecution, and to pursue strategic litigation to expedite reform of these laws. Lambda Legal has already called for, and will continue to fight for, a moratorium on all HIV-related criminal prosecutions in the meantime.
- Fighting Employment Discrimination in the South: Lambda Legal recently joined the lawsuit prompted by the charge filed with the EEOC by Lambda Legal client Chanse Cox, who was fired from his job on the assembly line at a juice maker after his employer learned of his HIV status. Dispelling misconceptions about occupational transmissions and ensuring fair and equal access to employment for people living with HIV is a crucial component of fighting the epidemic and achieving an AIDS-free generation.
- Increasing Access to Health Care: Lambda Legal will work in 2015 toward ending disparities in HIV infection for young gay men of color and in outcomes for lower-income Americans nationwide by continuing to advocate for increased access to health care and HIV medications.