Last month, the UCLA School of Law published a report assessing the legal needs of people living with HIV in Los Angeles County. This study, which focused on low-income and unemployed HIV positive people, highlights just how important legal advocacy services are for people living with HIV.
Almost all respondents to this study, 98 percent, reported they needed legal help during the past year. However, very few were able to access legal services. Only 28 percent sought help, and only 16 percent were able to access the help that they needed. With an estimated 58,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in LA County, this suggests that over 47,700 people living with HIV in LA County were unable to access needed legal help.
Respondents reported many barriers to accessing legal services. These barriers included not knowing where to call to ask for legal help, worrying that the legal service provider understood their specific needs as a person living with HIV/AIDS, and being unable to afford legal services.
This significant unmet need for legal assistance directly impacts the health and wellbeing of HIV positive people. Because of the legal issues that they faced, seven out of ten survey respondents reported difficulty carrying on normal life and six out of ten reported stress-related illness. One out of four respondents reported a negative impact on their physical health because of these unmet legal needs. Many also reported difficulty accessing healthcare services or taking medications, as well as financial hardship. Continue reading