HIV Law Project Partners with Alabama AIDS Organizations| May 2011

People living with HIV/AIDS in the state of Alabama are in desperate need of legal help, and have few places to turn for counsel. With unemployment hovering around 10%, nearly a quarter of the population living below the poverty level, and no state-funded public safety-net even for those who are disabled, access to federal disability benefits is often what’s required in order for Alabamans living with HIV and AIDS to have a roof overhead and food on the table.

Yet Alabama has Social Security Determination Service denial rates above the national average. Over 71% of the applications in Alabama are denied at the initial level. Chances of success are greatly improved at the hearing level. But there are only two lawyers in the entire state of Alabama providing free legal services to people living with HIV/AIDS in disability cases. Though dedicated and hardworking, these two attorneys are simply unable to help everyone around the state in need of a representative.

HIV Law Project in partnership with AIDS Alabama, Birmingham AIDS Outreach and Legal Services Alabama are working to reverse the culture of denial and to expand access to advocacy services in Alabama through a new pilot project. The project will train social workers and case managers at AIDS service organizations around the state in substantive areas of federal disability benefits practice so that they may serve as advocates to their clients in the application and appeals processes. Building capacity among these workers will greatly enhance the ability of statewide service organizations to assist clients in accessing life-saving benefits. In order to reach this audience, HIV Law Project, in collaboration with AIDS Alabama, Birmingham AIDS Outreach and Legal Services Alabama, will develop three customized on-demand training webinars as well as a supplemental manual for frontline workers.

HIV Law Project and its partners are exploring other ways in which they can work together to fight for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in Alabama.

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