A Coordinated Effort
The spread of HIV/AIDS is an enormous global challenge. According to the United Nations, there are now 40 million people with HIV worldwide–30 million in the developing world.
As HIV/AIDS has spread throughout the world and affected virtually every indicator of human well-being from public health to national security, the role of law in addressing it has become increasingly critical. Leading the way on behalf of the association is the ABA AIDS Coordinating Committee.
Chaired this year by the Honorable Richard T. Andrias of New York City, the committee includes representatives from more than 20 sections, commissions, divisions and other ABA-affiliated organizations and bar associations. It is responsible for developing broad-based ABA policy recommendations and programs that address the multifaceted legal issues engendered by the pandemic.
The AIDS Coordination Project, supported by the ABA Fund for Justice and Education and housed in the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, provides staff support to the committee and organizes education programs developed by the committee for the bench and bar. These include two major national conferences called “HIV/AIDS Law and Practice” for AIDS law practitioners and service providers in May 2002 and again in January 2004.
Other conferences developed by the committee and the project include a discussion among leading human rights advocates and other experts called “A World AIDS Day 2002 Roundtable: Stigma, Discrimination and the Future of HIV/AIDS Law, Policy and Advocacy,” and a national invitational symposium called “HIV/AIDS and the Law: An Agenda for Beyond the Millennium” in January 1999.
Recent committee publications include Perspectives on Returning to Work: Changing Legal Issues and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic, a Directory of Legal Resources for People with HIV/AIDS, and Deregulation of Hypodermic Needles and Syringes as a Public Health Measure: A Report on Emerging Policy and Law in the United States.
To help keep the legal community active and informed on the evolving law in this area, the project helped re-establish a nationwide e-mail discussion list, HIV-LEGAL. Hosted by the Western New York Law Center, HIV- LEGAL is an independent, nonpartisan list of more than 300 lawyers and advocates engaged in HIV/AIDS-related legal practice, policy development or both. Subscribers post inquiries, case summaries and analyses, comments, announcements, references to resources and other items.
Testimonials Encourage Testing
The stigma and discrimination associated with aids are huge stumbling blocks to combating the spread of HIV, both domestically and globally, as they deter people at higher risk of infection from getting tested and receiving treatment and prevention counseling. (About 90 percent of people infected with HIV worldwide do not know they are infected.) Recognizing that open and honest dialogue is perhaps the most effective way to combat stigma and discrimination, the committee launched a Testimonials Project on AIDS-related Stigma and Discrimination in observance of World AIDS Day 2003 (Dec. 1). Since then, several lawyers and advocates for people with HIV/AIDS, most of whom are HIV-positive themselves, have submitted testimonials describing their personal experiences in combating HIV/ AIDS. These may be read by visiting the committee Web site: www. abanet.org/AIDS/home.html. New testimonials are posted as they are received.
The committee also engages in advocacy in support of ABA policies on HIV/ AIDS, most recently submitting a letter to the Honorable Anthony J. Principi, secretary of veterans affairs, urging the VA’s consideration of a science-based approach to developing its organ transplantation policy for HIV-infected veterans. The letter followed the ABA House of Delegates’ unanimous passage at the 2004 midyear meeting of a resolution co-sponsored by the committee, the sections of Individual Rights and Responsibilities and International Law and Practice, and the Young Lawyers Division urging the U.S. government to implement HIV/ AIDS-related legislation, policies, programs and international agreements in a manner consistent with international human rights law and science-based prevention, care, support and treatment objectives. This resolution and the ABA’s other HIV/AIDS policies are also on the Web site.
For more information about the important and far-reaching work of the AIDS Coordinating Committee and the AIDS Coordination Project, contact the project’s outstanding director, Michael L. Pates, at 202-662-1025 or via e-mail: [email protected]