On Monday, April 13, Lambda Legal’s HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes and plaintiff John East received the Positive Leadership Award at AIDSWatch 2015, the largest annual constituent-based national HIV/AIDS advocacy event.
“I’m proud to receive this award alongside Lambda Legal’s courageous plaintiff, John East,” Schoettes said. “Working with Mr. East, we successfully reversed a dangerous trend started by his insurance provider that would have detrimentally affected many HIV-positive people in Louisiana and elsewhere. Because of Mr. East’s willingness to fight for himself and others, Lambda Legal was able to send a clear message to insurance providers across the country: you cannot place discriminatory barriers between people living with HIV and their access to healthcare.”
East was the named defendant in East v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Lambda Legal’s successful federal discrimination case that required Louisiana insurance providers to accept premium payments from the Ryan White Program. The resolution reversed a controversial policy change initiated by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and mimicked by other insurers in the state that made health insurance unaffordable for many people living with HIV.
“I am humbly honored to be an unexpected recipient of this award, and look upon this as an opportunity to hopefully inspire others. I think the award should be dedicated to the memory of the countless millions in our country and around the world who died from this horrific disease and were not able to witness this historical life changing event,” East said. “I look forward to possible future opportunities to be of service to my fellow human beings on this & other issues and vow to take up the challenge when the need arises. After decades of paying my premiums on time, I was facing a future where I would be unable to afford the critical medications I needed to stay healthy, to continue to work and to contribute to my community. Fortunately, with Scott and Lambda Legal by my side, we were able to stop this from happening.”
Scott A. Schoettes, who is openly HIV-positive, litigates impact cases involving discriminatory denial of employment and services based on a person’s HIV status, as well as in the areas of HIV criminalization and access to care. He also does a significant amount of amicus work on issues of import to people living with HIV, most notably co-authoring amicus briefs in both U.S. Supreme Court cases reviewing the constitutionality and application of the Affordable Care Act. On the policy side, Schoettes was the point-person for Lambda Legal’s work on the repeal of the HIV travel ban, is working on the legislative reform of laws criminalizing conduct based on HIV status, and was recently appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, with which he had previously worked in developing recommendations to promote safe and voluntary disclosure of HIV status pursuant to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
The Positive Leadership Awards are presented by the organizing partners of AIDSWatch 2015—the Treatment Access Expansion Project, AIDS United, and the US People Living with HIV Caucus.
AIDSWatch is the largest annual constituent-based national HIV/AIDS advocacy event, bringing together hundreds of people living with HIV and their allies to meet with Members of Congress and learn about the important issues at stake for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. AIDSWatch 2015 takes place April 13 and 14 in Washington D.C. Learn more: aidsunited.org/aidswatch2015.