the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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Toward AIDS 2012: Fighting Discrimination Against People with HIV/AIDS

Summary: 
Since President Obama announced the National HIV/AIDS Strategy 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 Department of Justice is proud to play a lead role in eradicating discrimination against those living with HIV or AIDS. The Civil Rights Division has significant enforcement authority over the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973—Federal laws that protect individuals with HIV/AIDS from discrimination in employment, state and local government services, places of public accommodation, and housing.

Since President Obama announced the National HIV/AIDS Strategy 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:

  • In furtherance of its leadership role, the Division is working with community-based groups in order to educate individuals with HIV/AIDS about their rights under the law. In addition to speaking at numerous conferences and outreach events, we have met with AIDS Service Organizations in 20 cities throughout the country to educate direct service providers on the rights of their clients and to build important ground-level relationships. 
  • To increase our educational efforts and to make our work as transparent and as accessible as possible, last year we launched a website dedicated to our work fighting discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS:  ada.gov/AIDS. In addition, last month we posted a comprehensive Questions and Answerspublication explaining the rights that persons with HIV/AIDS have under the ADA, as well as the obligations that the ADA imposes on employers, businesses and non-profit agencies that serve the public, and State and local governments. 

This outreach has increased the volume of HIV discrimination complaints received by the Department. But despite the progress that has been made, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS remains high. Even today, fear of discrimination keeps Americans from learning their HIV status, disclosing their status, and accessing medical care. The Justice Department will continue to lead the way in combating stigma and discrimination against people with HIV, educating the public on these issues, and doing what is necessary to realize the President’s vision under the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. 

Thomas E. Perez is the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice.