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Crusading HIV-Positive Senior Dies at 78

Crusading HIV-Positive Senior Dies at 78


Dr. Robert Franke, who fought to live in a retirement home that rejected him because of his HIV status, died December 26. He was 78.

Franke wanted to be closer to daughter Sara Franke Bowling in Little Rock, Ark., so he applied to live at Fox Ridge, an assisted-living facility. He moved in after fulfilling residency requirements, but after it was discovered that he is HIV-positive, Franke was abruptly ejected from his home.

After working with Lambda Legal, he settled with the facility's operators in 2010.

Scott Schoettes, Lambda Legal HIV project director, called Franke "courageous" and added that his crusade paved the way for more seniors living with HIV as they seek elder care.

"He was an educator through and through. He never had any desire to draw attention to himself—or his medical condition—but he was willing to do whatever was necessary to make his terrible experience a ‘teachable moment,’ to help ensure that no other senior living with HIV suffered the kind of discrimination he did."

Franke was a retired university provost, and Unitarian-Universalist minister. In 2010, he was recognized at a White House conference on HIV and aging for his contributions.

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