Arguing that six Louisiana nursing homes violated federal law by refusing to care for a stroke victim because he also has HIV, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund on Wednesday filed a federal discrimination complaint against the homes with the Department of Health and Human Services. The complaint claims that the nursing homes are in violation of the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits facilities that receive federal funds from discriminating against people with disabilities. The nursing homes broke the law because they receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funds, according to the complaint.
A month before Cecil Little, 50, was discharged from the hospital while recovering from a stroke, his mother and his sister approached a Louisiana nursing home, called Tangi Pines, located just six miles from where they live, to seek care for him. That facility agreed to care for Little, but after learning just three days before he was set to arrive that he is HIV-positive, backed out of the agreement. Five other nearby nursing homes also refused to care for Little because he is infected with HIV, according to the complaint. Little is now living in a nursing home located 80 miles from his family.
"Cecil Little requires help meeting his most basic needs, and discrimination based on his HIV status should not dictate where he gets those needs met," said Brian Chase, a Dallas-based Lambda Legal attorney working on the case. "What makes this case even more frustrating is that we are dealing with health care professionals here. These are the people who should help dispel baseless fears about HIV, not perpetuate them."