Justice Department Settles Three HIV Discrimination Cases

Content From: David W. Knight, J.D., Trial Attorney, Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of JusticePublished: February 14, 20133 min read


Department of JusticeAs part of its Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached three settlements addressing HIV discrimination by medical providers over the past three weeks. Each of the settlements was reached under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities—including persons with HIV disease—in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

In the settlement.

“Excluding a person from necessary medical treatment solely because of HIV is unconscionable,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division takes HIV discrimination in any form seriously, and will not allow for the marginalization of those living with HIV.”

Under the February 8, 2013 settlement, the Castlewood Treatment Center must pay $115,000 to Gibson and $25,000 in civil penalties. In addition, Castlewood must train its staff on the ADA and develop and implement an anti-discrimination policy. The Justice Department will monitor Castlewood’s compliance for four years.

Finally, on January 31, 2013, the Justice Department announced a similar settlement agreement with the Fayetteville Pain Center to address HIV discrimination. That settlement resolves allegations that the Fayetteville Pain Center violated the ADA by refusing to treat a woman because she has HIV. The complainant, a woman with HIV who was suffering from back pain as a result of a car accident, visited the Fayetteville Pain Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, seeking treatment. According to the complaint, the woman was unable to obtain medical treatment because the doctor at the Fayetteville Pain Center refused to treat a person with HIV. The ADA requires public accommodations such as doctors’ offices, medical clinics, hospitals, and other health care providers, to provide people with disabilities, including those with HIV, equal access to goods, services, and facilities. Under the settlement, the Fayetteville Pain Center must pay $10,000 to the complainant and $5,000 to the United States in civil penalties, train its staff on the ADA, and develop and implement an anti-discrimination policy.

All three settlements are part of the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices across the nation, to target enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities. The initiative, launched on the 22nd anniversary of the ADA in July 2012, includes the participation of 40 U.S. Attorney’s offices. The Division expects the initiative to address access to health care for people with HIV and those with hearing disabilities, as well as physical access to medical facilities. In 2012, the Division and U.S. Attorneys offices reached two settlement agreements regarding access to medical care for people with HIV and four settlements regarding access to medical care for people with hearing disabilities.

Since President Obama announced the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) in July 2010, the Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, has taken unprecedented steps to enforce civil rights laws that protect the rights of persons living with HIV or AIDS and to educate the public on these issues. The NHAS Federal Implementation Plan calls upon the Department of Justice to enhance cooperation with other Federal agencies to facilitate enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws. Information about the important role that enforcement of antidiscrimination laws can play in changing the HIV/AIDS epidemic can be found in an excerpt from the NHAS (PDF 90KB).

For more information on the ADA and HIV visit www.ada.gov/aids. Those interested in finding out more about these settlements or the obligations of public accommodations under the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov. ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov.