HIV Law Project

HIV Law Project

Our Mission

HIV Law Project believes that all people deserve the same rights, including the right to live with dignity and respect, the right to be treated as equal members of society, and the right to have their basic human needs fulfilled.These fundamental rights are elusive for many people living with HIV/AIDS. Through innovative legal services, HIV Law Project fights for the rights of the most underserved people living with HIV/AIDS

Our History

Founded in 1989, HIV Law Project has been at the forefront of legal and advocacy services to low-income HIV-positive New Yorkers, particularly women and people of color. At a time when AIDS was primarily seen as a disease affecting upper- and middle-class white gay men, a growing population of poor women and men of color living with HIV desperately needed legal services but had nowhere to turn for help. HIV Law Project was formed to fill that gap. To date, HIV Law Project has assisted over 20,000 clients with their legal needs.

In October 2013, HIV Law Project merged with Housing Works, whose legal department has taken the lead in fighting for clients wrestling with homelessness and HIV/AIDS, and the rights of transgender clients to receive services, among other areas. Together, HIV Law Project and Housing Works help to secure and maintain affordable housing for clients, ensure basic human rights, and combat discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS.

Staff & Bios

Representative Cases

A few examples of our groundbreaking work:

Government Benefits

John Doe had difficulty breathing, the result of his HIV-related lipodystrophy. Lipodystrophy, or abnormal fat distribution in the body, is a concern among many who are living with HIV, especially long-term survivors, and indeed Mr. Doe's breathing difficulty was so severe that he was virtually homebound. There is only one FDA-approved drug to treat lipodystrophy, Egrifta, and Medicaid refused to cover it, forcing Mr. Doe to suffer needlessly. The New York State Medicaid program excluded Egrifta from its prescription drug “formulary,” or list of approved drugs. Consequently, Mr. Doe's Medicaid managed care plan repeatedly denied coverage of this medically necessary drug. HLP appealed the denials, securing the first and only New York State fair hearing decision directing Medicaid to cover Egrifta, a critical victory for our client and, we hope, for others living with HIV and lipodystrophy.

Housing

Mr. Smith’s landlord was trying to evict him from the home he shared with his long-term partner, a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village with a very low rent. Several other legal services organizations refused to assist Mr. Smith in his quest to save his home, and the private attorney Mr. Smith retained encouraged him to take some money from the landlord and move, another affordable housing unit lost forever. Surviving family members have a right to succeed to rent-controlled apartments like this. Short of marriage, however, gay men like Mr. Smith have for ages faced a difficult task in proving a familial relationship and thus a right to succeed to the family home. In a decision of significance not only to Mr. Smith but to others just like him, Judge John Stanley issued a sensitive decision awarding Mr. Smith succession rights to the apartment. He noted that folks on public assistance are less likely to own property together, or to share retirement accounts or other joint investments, but Mr. Smith and his partner shared household expenses like utilities and groceries, and numerous emotional – familial – bonds. After years of hard-fought litigation, HLP and Mr. Smith prevailed, saving Mr. Smith’s home of ten years, saving another affordable housing unit from the rapacious jaws of gentrification, and setting important precedent for others in the same boat.

Immigration

Mr. S, a gay man from Jamaica, was fired from his job and ultimately rendered homeless, forced to sleep in abandoned buildings and open lots with other homeless LGBTQ youth. Mr. S and his group of homeless, LGBTQ youth were constantly harassed and attacked by members of the public. Many of them were murdered, the assailants never apprehended. In fact, rather than assist them, the police constantly set their dogs upon them, fired tear gas on them, and shot them with water cannons to flush them out of their temporary sleeping places. The police even burned their clothes, their sole possessions. At one public event, Mr. S was stabbed in a homophobic assault, but the police, who were on the scene, refused to assist Mr. S or even summon medical help. After being ruthlessly hunted by the police and chased every day for years, repeatedly thrown in jail, and stabbed, and after witnessing his compatriots murdered one after the other with no recourse or protection, Mr. S fled Jamaica. Arriving in the United States, Mr. S sought the assistance of the HIV Law Project, which assisted Mr. S in securing subsistence benefits and ultimately in securing asylum on the basis of this unrelenting persecution.

Contact Us

To qualify for our services, you must (1) live in New York City; (2) live with HIV/AIDS; and (3) be of low income.  If you meet all three of these criteria, and you have a legal issue involving public benefits, housing, or immigration, please call (212) 577-3001 and leave a message on our intake line, with a brief description of your legal issue.

Our Mission

Housing Works is a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.

Donate Now