The EEOC filed suit on behalf of an HIV-positive plaintiff who was denied a restaurant waitstaff position. In its initial complaint, the EEOC claimed that the hiring denial was based on the plaintiff’s HIV disease, which is an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and, therefore, is a disability for purposes of an ADA claim. Later, in a response to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the EEOC submitted affidavits that explained how the plaintiff’s impairment, described then as AIDS or HIV/AIDS, substantially limited a major life activity. The District Court refused to allow submission of the affidavits, however, because it determined that the change in terminology from “HIV” to “AIDS” amounted to a shift in factual basis for the claim and was raised too late in the process.
The ACLU submitted this amicus brief in support of the employee, asserting that the District Court’s ruling was wrong as a matter of science as well as a matter of law, and arguing that “distinguishing between HIV and AIDS disability under the ADA fails to comport with the medical understanding of the illness and its symptoms. Equally, a distinction between HIV discrimination and AIDS discrimination ignores the nature of the prejudice motivating HIV/AIDS discrimination.” The brief lays out the scientific evidence for treating HIV and AIDS as the same condition, and explains that courts have treated HIV and AIDS as one illness whose symptoms and treatment limits major life activities in similar ways. The brief also includes arguments related to the stigma and discrimination faced by people with HIV/AIDS, regardless of where they are in their course of illness.