Lambda Legal Fights in the Workplace for People with HIV
Advocacy Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, discusses the unique challenges facing people with HIV in healthcare and the workplace.
What is the most pressing issue for those who are HIV positive?
Meaningful access to affordable care is the most pressing issue facing people living with HIV. When timely diagnosed, HIV can be a chronic, manageable condition for people with access to quality health care.
Good health care – along with the support mechanisms needed to access that care and remain adherent to HIV medications – makes all the difference in terms of health outcomes for people living with HIV. Sadly, only 34 percent of people living with HIV in the U.S. are in care and have the virus under control. For that reason, Lambda Legal views ensuring access to care as absolutely vital.
“There is not a job in the world that a person living with HIV cannot safely perform, and Lambda Legal is committed to ensuring that the legal system recognizes and enforces that reality.”
What is the most common form of discrimination that you have seen this community face?
Employment discrimination is the most common form of discrimination faced by people living with HIV. And it is also one of the most troubling forms of discrimination, because stable employment is one of the things that can really help a person living with HIV to remain healthy.
Unfortunately, many outdated misconceptions about HIV transmission still exist and they reveal themselves in the decisions made by employers. There is not a job in the world that a person living with HIV cannot safely perform, and Lambda Legal is committed to ensuring that the legal system recognizes and enforces that reality.
What drives you to help this community?
First and foremost, I am a member of this community. I have been living with HIV for 18 years, and have been very public about my status for the last 11 years. I am also a gay man, and this epidemic devastated our community from the outset and likely will always be centered in the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. So it is about helping my communities. But it is also about helping all of the people and communities impacted by this disease, because they are some of the most marginalized people in this country. That’s a pretty fulfilling mission.