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

D.A. Williams opens new unit to focus exclusively…

D.A. Seth Williams announced Tuesday that he has opened a new unit focused entirely on investigating wrongful conviction claims.

Local

BSL, El to run all night on summer…

Officials announced this week that it would institute a pilot program this summer that would keep the El operational from 5 a.m. Friday morning until midnight Monday morning starting in…

National

Reddit boosts news capabilities in social media turf…

By Jennifer SabaNEW YORK (Reuters) - Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As,…

National

Missouri man charged with sexually torturing five women

A Missouri man has been charged with raping and torturing five women in a St. Louis-area apartment over several years, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Here's what to do in Philly this weekend

FILM 'Through a Lens Darkly'  Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center 1400 N. American St. Free, RSVP required, 215-232-5678 www.philaphotoarts.org Join Philadelphia…

Arts

Peek behind the scenes at the Academy of…

Generations of visitors have marveled at the dioramas in the Academy of Natural Sciences, watching apprehensively at the puma perpetually poised to attack the unsuspecting…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

NHL

Flyers must make Rangers feel their presence

Perhaps it’s the proximity of the two biggest cities in the East, because whenever these two square off the intensity seems to rise.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.

Tech

Google Glass finally goes on sale for regular…

The Google Glass finally went on sale for regular people. It only costs $1,500.