The medical epidemic of AIDS has been accompanied by a second epidemic of discrimination and stigma. The AIDS Discrimination Division (ADD) was created to address this social crisis. A proactive governmental division of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, ADD has developed an integrated approach to address issues of AIDS-related discrimination, including loss of employment, inadequate medical care, eviction, harassment, and violence.
ADD’s multilayered strategy includes four principal elements. First, ADD provides immediate advocacy and mediation, responding to all complaints within 48 hours. As a result of ADD’s commitment to responsiveness, over 87 percent of conflicts are resolved within 30 days. Second, ADD streamlined its traditional complaint processing techniques, integrating the investigative and litigation processes by creating a model that brings investigators and attorneys together as problem-solving partners. Third, since a case-by-case approach fails to adequately address the systemic nature of HIV-related discrimination, ADD initiates complaints against industries, companies and professionals which maintain discriminatory policies, including funeral homes, dentists, abortion clinics and drug rehabilitation programs. Lastly, ADD offers preventive education and conducts community outreach. ADD targets public officials, industry leaders, service providers, community activists, landlords, unions, those directly affected by the epidemic, and the general public to identify and appropriately respond to discrimination.
Perhaps the ADD's single most important achievement has been the cumulative effect and influence their work has had on the understanding of the epidemic worldwide. This has been accomplished largely through the creation and implementation of an effective approach to handling HIV-related discrimination. The replicable program, with its four-pronged strategy of early intervention incorporating advocacy and mediation; streamlined complaint processing; aggressive systemic work; and the extensive use of community outreach and education has been hailed nationally and internationally as a model for the prevention of AIDS discrimination.