The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) has released a new report summarizing a recent survey of the legal needs of people affected by HIV living in the South. Send Lawyers, Guides and Money: The Legal Services Needs of People Living with HIV in the Southern United States, describes the reported experiences of persons with HIV and those who provide services to them with discrimination and other barriers to basic needs, and whether they could get legal help to resolve those barriers. Based on information from nearly 400 people in eleven Southern states, the report is intended for use by legal and social services organizations and funders to inform program planning and resource allocation for HIV-related services
Eighty-five percent of the respondents to CHLP's survey identified problems related to their HIV status that required legal help. Of these people, almost 50% were not able to receive legal help the last time they needed it. The problems for which they needed legal help included everything from denial of housing and employment discrimination to family and life planning issues such as wills and custody concerns. Lack of access to affordable housing was most frequently identified as a pressing legal need, and finding legal help was most difficult for immigration matters. The full report examines demographic and geographic differences in priorities and available resources.
"Access to legal services is an essential part of guaranteeing protection from discrimination and meeting the basic needs of people with HIV," said Beirne Roose-Snyder, an attorney with the Center for HIV Law and Policy. "Yet in all of the Southern states we surveyed, such services either do not exist or are inadequately resourced. Our survey found that there are huge gaps in legal services access in a part of the country where nearly half of those affected by HIV reside."
The report concludes that without additional resources in the form of HIV-knowledgeable attorneys, legal guides and resources, and increased funding of legal services in the South, some of the people hardest hit by the U.S. AIDS epidemic will continue to go without essential services needed to maintain their health.
The complete report is available at http://hivlawandpolicy.org/resources/view/575. Send Lawyers, Guides and Money is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation and the Levi Strauss Foundation.
More information about The Center for HIV Law and Policy is available at http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/