While advances in treatment for HIV allow those affected to live longer and reduce their risk of transmission, stigma and discrimination can deter people from getting the help they need. “People definitely face discrimination based on their status, and it manifests itself in different ways,” says Kenya Burnett, Senior Attorney in LAF’s Public Benefits Practice Group.
Prior to joining LAF in 2009, Kenya worked as a case manager for people living with HIV. She now heads up LAF’s HIV/AIDS Task Force, which works internally to ensure LAF is addressing issues germane to clients living with HIV. Thanks to Kenya and members of the Task Force, LAF runs two legal clinics for people living with HIV—one at the Howard Brown Health Center in partnership with Legal Council for Health Justice, and one at Provident Hospital of Cook County. “The HIV community is pretty tight-knit, so it’s important for organizations serving that population to maintain strong relationships with each other and within that community. We all rely on each other, and we’re all working together for a common goal,” Kenya says.
From representing clients whose HIV status has been illegally disclosed, to helping people living with HIV navigate the civil justice system to obtain the public benefits they’re entitled to, Kenya continues to serve the HIV community through advocacy and outreach. “Service is the price we pay for the space we occupy,” she says. “Because I’m here on this earth, breathing the same air, I have an obligation to serve others. And we all have that same obligation to each other.”