Online Program

HIV as a direct threat to others: Bringing policy in LINE with the objective medical evidence

Monday, November 4, 2013

Megan Douglas, J.D., The Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
Shanell McGoy, Ph.D. M.P.H., The Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
From the beginning, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been rife with stigma and stereotypes, which have failed to evolve with treatment and public health statistics. Although people with HIV/AIDS are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), cases of unlawful discrimination still occur. Judicial standards are inconsistent with the objective medical evidence, creating an environment ripe for discrimination based on the “direct threat” posed by individuals with HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this work is to analyze the existing ADA case law and objective evidence to establish the appropriate usage of the “direct threat” defense in cases of discrimination based on HIV status. The ADA and relevant federal cases were reviewed to track the progression of the legal treatment of HIV/AIDS as a direct threat to others. These findings were compared to medical treatment advances and public health statistics regarding HIV/AIDS transmission to determine whether the legal treatment is consistent with objective medical evidence. Judicial interpretations of the “direct threat” provision of the ADA are inconsistent and rely on outdated medical evidence, which leaves open the possibility for actual discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS. Based on the current medical evidence, HIV/AIDS status alone does not pose a direct threat to others. In order to prevent discrimination, the courts should recognize the current medical evidence and prohibit use of the “direct threat” defense in cases where the individual has HIV/AIDS.

Learning Areas:

Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe existing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case law and objective medical evidence on HIV/AIDS status and employment practices

Keyword(s): HIV/AIDS, Law

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Megan Douglas, J.D. earned a B.S. in Biology from Virginia Tech and a Juris Doctorate from the Georgia State University College of Law in 2012. Ms. Douglas was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 2012. She was involved in the health law program while at Georgia State University and worked as an intern for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office of the General Counsel and the Georgia Hospital Association.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.