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DOJ resolves lawsuits to ensure equal access to health care for people with HIV

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The Justice Department announced that it has filed proposed consent decrees with two obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) doctors in Bakersfield, California. The consent decrees, which are subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, resolve the department’s lawsuits against the doctors, Umaima Jamaluddin MD, and Chibuike Enyereibe Anucha MD, PC, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The department sued Dr. Jamaluddin and Dr. Anucha alleging violations of the ADA based on their refusal to provide routine medical care to a patient because the patient has HIV. Title III of the ADA prohibits doctors and other health care providers from discriminating against people with disabilities, including HIV.

One lawsuit alleged that Dr. Anucha told the patient that she needed a Pap smear and refused to perform it because the patient has HIV. The other lawsuit alleged that Dr. Jamaluddin refused to allow the same patient to make an appointment for routine preventative care because the patient has HIV.

“People with HIV have the right to equal access to doctors and medical services,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department remains steadfast in our commitment to eradicate discrimination against people with HIV and combat the spread of unfounded stereotypes and misinformation.”

“Of all people, medical providers should understand that erecting barriers to basic medical care based on an individual’s HIV status is unconscionable,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “It should not take a federal lawsuit to break down such barriers, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in the Civil Rights Division stand ready to litigate to vindicate the rights of individuals with disabilities.”

Under the consent decrees, the doctors have agreed to pay a total of $75,000 to the patient ($37,500 in each case) and to pay a $5,000 civil penalty to the United States in each case. The consent decrees also require the defendants to take and provide their staff with training; implement a non-discrimination policy; and comply with record-keeping obligations, including providing regular reports to the department.

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