Lambda Legal Urges State Department to Stop Discriminating Against People with HIV on World AIDS Day
(Washington D.C., November 30, 2006) — In honor of World AIDS Day tomorrow, Lambda Legal has sent 17,000 petitions along with a letter signed by over 40 HIV/AIDS, sexual health and civil rights organizations to the State Department, urging it to end its discrimination against people with HIV. Lambda Legal collaborated with HIV/AIDS, sexual health and civil rights organizations to send a letter to the State Department, urging it to revise its outdated and discriminatory policy that disqualifies perfectly qualified candidates solely on their HIV status. Lambda Legal also sent a petition with 17,000 signatures encouraging Condoleezza Rice to reconsider the State Department’s blanket ban against hiring people with HIV.
Lambda Legal currently represents two men, Lorenzo Taylor and Kyle Smith, both of whom sought to become Foreign Service Officers and were denied because they have HIV. Taylor’s lawsuit against Condoleezza Rice, in her official capacity as Secretary of State, charges that the State Department’s policy violates the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against people with disabilities. Smith has an administrative complaint pending against the State Department. “The State Department is basing its blanket ban against applicants with HIV on outdated medical information and stereotypes about people with HIV,” said Bebe Anderson, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. “Lorenzo Taylor is a clear example of a highly qualified, dedicated applicant who is being blocked from doing the work he trained so long and hard to do because he has HIV.”
“We are proud to join with Lambda Legal and other organizations in sending this important message to the U.S. government that policies based on unreasonable ideology rather than sound, scientific evidence are not acceptable,” said William Smith, Vice President for Public Policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS). “By continuing to implement this backward and discriminatory policy, the State Department is sending a message to all employers that it is acceptable to further stigmatize people living with HIV.”
“As HIV care providers, we use the power of medicine to heal, not to discriminate,” said Dr. Jeffrey Schouten, Chair of the American Academy of HIV Medicine Board of Directors. “It concerns us that the United States State Department would use HIV status to exclude capable and talented individuals from a calling to Foreign Service. This policy perpetuates long held erroneous beliefs and longstanding ignorance about HIV that providers have been fighting against for more than 25 years — condoning discrimination while doing nothing to help contain the spread of disease.”
Other groups who signed on to the letter include: Advocates for Youth; AIDS Action Council; AIDS Foundation of Chicago; The AIDS Institute—National Office; AIDSLaw of Louisiana, Inc.; AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania; AIDS Legal Council of Chicago; AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP); AIDS Project Hartford, Inc.; AIDS Project Los Angeles; American Academy of HIV Medicine; American Civil Liberties Union; Asian Pacific American Legal Center; BIENESTAR; Bronx AIDS Services, Inc.; Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP); Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition; Douglas County HIV Resource Center; Duke AIDS Legal Assistance Project; Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Gay Men's Health Crisis; Harm Reduction Coalition, Hepatitis, AIDS, Research Trust, HIV/AIDS Law Project; HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance, Inc. (HALSA); HIV Medicine Association; Human Rights Campaign; International Women's Health Coalition; L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center; Legal Action Center; Minnesota AIDS Project; Nashville CARES; National Association of People with AIDS; National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors; New York State Black Gay Network; Public Justice Center; Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS); Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia, Inc.; Sylvia Rivera Law Project; Treatment Action Group; TII CANN — Title II Community AIDS National Network; Washington Heights CORNER Project; and Whitman-Walker Clinic.
Contact: Jackie Yodashkin 212-809-8585 ext 229