Fighting AIDS means fighting the discrimination and social problems faced by HIV-positive people, which prevent them from getting the right medical treatment.
For more than three years now, Act Up-Paris has been offering social and legal advise to help PWA’s with the many legal difficulties they face. This service also works as a sort of inventory of social problems related to HIV/AIDS ; its aim is to get the various administrations to dispense with discriminatory practices and encourage legal or statutory change. This legal advise service is offered by volunteers, often AIDS patients with no specific training in social work or law. The expertise and counsel they give come from their own personal experience and that of Act Up.
The balance-sheet lists the failures of the social services to respond the needs of HIV-positive people. The main problem facing us are the following :
Access to income. The minimum welfare benefits such as the AAH (Allowance for disabled adults) are not easily obtained by those people living with HIV who can’t work. These benefits are extremely small, forcing many to live off charity from the various AIDS organisations.
Access to accomodation. Like other people in socially precarious situations, HIV-positive people suffer from the lack of council flats adapted to their wages. Moreover, criteria such as a medical emergency, although enshrined in law, are still not taken into account by the social services. Many patients end up homeless, or else are moved from hostels into temporary housing.
Precarious work conditions. The world of employment doesn’t fit the problems faced by people with progressive illnesses. There aren’t enough possibilities of working at one’s own pace or of finding therapeutic part-time jobs, which are few and far between. Moreover, discrimination against PWA’s (harassment, improper redundancy, difficulties in getting employed in the first place) is as present as ever.
The fight to get AIDS sufferers’ social rights upheld and respected is of course essential, working in tandem with the fight for adapted medical treatment : medical and social issues go hand in hand in AIDS work. Our most pressing task is to make ourselves heard by the State, always ready to cut off existing social rights.