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HIV+ man banned from jail work program gets last laugh

unnamed inmate
Photo by Ron Lach for Pexels

Not only was the man blocked from working in a kitchen, his HIV status was disclosed without his permission.

A former inmate won a settlement after he was blocked from working in a Pennsylvania prison work program because of his HIV status, which was also disclosed to others without his permission.

Lambda Legal, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Langer Grogan & Diver P.C. announced the settlement this week without disclosing the amount or the plaintiff's name. Doe v. Delaware County, et al. concerned a man incarcerated for less than six months in 2020. John Doe hoped to participate in a prison job program in the facility's kitchen, but was denied over his HIV status. In the denial, the man's HIV status was also disclosed to others without his permission.

The prison, George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County, was privately run at the time of Doe's incarceration but is now run by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The prison's new warden has pledged to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which bans anti-HIV discrimination. In his suit, Doe also argued that correctional facility officials violated Pennsylvania’s Confidentiality of HIV-Related Information Act, which does not allow disclosing someone's HIV status without that person's consent.

“This settlement sends a strong message of an incarcerated person’s right to confidentiality in their medical information,” said Richard Saenz, Senior Attorney and Criminal Legal System Strategist at Lambda Legal, in a statement. “The Americans with Disabilities Act has been clear that people living with HIV should not be denied participation in programs and opportunities available to other incarcerated people because of their disability.”

"We are grateful for the tenacity of our client John Doe. We know this type of unlawful HIV discrimination and HIV disclosure happens all too often in the corrections context and goes largely unaddressed,” added Adrian Lowe, Senior Staff Attorney at AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania. “Discrimination against people living with HIV is illegal. What is illegal on the outside doesn't become legal behind bars."

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