On July 16, 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an announcement and fact sheet unambiguously stating that exclusion of people with HIV/AIDS from occupational training and trades that require state licensing violates federal antidiscrimination law. In the fact sheet, the DOJ directs state licensing boards and trade schools to amend their policies to state that any certification requirement that references infectious or communicable diseases excludes diseases, such as HIV, that are not transmitted through casual contact or through the usual practice of the occupations for which license is required.
This announcement is a huge win for people with HIV, as many states have continued to use old laws requiring that applicants be “free of communicable disease” to keep people with HIV out of a variety of trades, refusing to license them for professions ranging from massage therapy to home healthcare. Last year, this issue was one of 15 issues included in a civil rights “to do” list for the new Obama Administration that CHLP drafted with the ACLU AIDS Project, Lambda Legal, GLAD and the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago. Later in the year, this same group of advocates developed more detailed recommendations for four of these civil rights recommendations for submission to the Obama administration on behalf of a large coalition of advocacy organizations from across the country. The fact sheet issued on July 16th closely tracks the recommended text CHLP drafted as part of this effort.
The reference in the fact sheet to “home healthcare” professionals also may help open the door to improving federal and state guidelines that courts have relied on in upholding exclusion of HIV positive physicians and other health care workers from employment.