After 25 years, battle for HIV/AIDS patient equality still rages

Red Ribbon-AIDS
Credit: File

Doctors fight the virus. The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania fights the stigma.

“That is our part of the battle,” said Yolanda French Lollis, managing attorney for the nonprofit public-interest law firm. “To allow people to live their lives, you have to fight stigma on a lot of levels.”

AIDS Law provides free legal assistance to those infected with HIV/AIDS — the only organization of its kind in the United States.

On Thursday, the group, which is based in Philadelphia, marks its 25th anniversary with a celebration in Center City.

Since its inception, the law firm says it has helped 38,000 Pennsylvanians and won several landmark cases that resulted in policy changes. The group uses the law to teach lessons about how people with HIV and AIDS deserve to be treated.

“There’s always an attempt to treat people differently,” Lollis said.

In its 25 years, the project has brought suits against a dentist who refused to treat patients with HIV/AIDS; a company that limited health insurance coverage based on a positive diagnosis; medical technicians who didn’t help a collapsed man who was being treated for AIDS; and a company that fired a man because his partner was diagnosed with AIDS.

The stigma manifests itself in every corner.

“As long as there is that fear of being treated differently and being rejected,” said Lollis, who joined in 1993, “people will not disclose their status in various situations. And that’s the whole problem.”

In the beginning, the Project used a “crisis model.” “People were sick; they had an immediate need. We’d try to fix that and get their life together for however long their life may be,” said Ronda B. Goldfein, executive director, who joined in 1992 as a volunteer.

And now: “How do we support our clients so they can live their lives and have futures, because in fact they have futures now.”

Jose’s story

Jose de Marco called the AIDS Law Project many times and for a myriad of reasons. “Mostly because I probably could not afford, nor could I find, attorneys that were really well-versed and experts in the field of HIV and AIDS law.”

The group helped him fight a discrimination lawsuit about two years ago with a large bus company. He left his AIDS medication on board, and when he tried to retrieve them, the bus driver denied him passage.

He sighed.

“Discrimination and stigma are just as rampant today as it was when the AIDS Law Project was founded,” he said.

To learn more or to donate, visit the AIDS Law Project’s website: http://www.aidslawpa.org/

____________________

Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Facebook: Metro Philadelphia



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.