Since April, 1995, PSLS has maintained a project to deliver legal assistance at no cost to persons who are HIV+ or who have AIDS. The financial eligibility criteria to qualify for Prairie State Legal Services help have been expanded for this project. Eligible clients must document their medical serostatus, and be a resident in one of the PSLS counties where project services are available. At the present time, the project serves all PSLS counties, except Kankakee, Iroquois and Livingston. Project funding comes from Parts A and B of the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act. Part A funds are administered by the Chicago Department of Public Health for an 8-county extended metropolitan area around Chicago (the "collar counties"). Funds for the remaining counties are provided by several different regional HIV consortia.
The project addresses client needs for assistance in civil legal matters such as: (1) housing and landlord tenant; (2) health care and insurance issues, including Medicare and Medicaid; (3) future planning and advance directives, such as living wills and powers of attorney; (4) public benefits such as TANF, food stamps, and unemployment insurance; (5) disability benefits, including Social Security and SSI; (6) family law matters; (7) employment; (8) education; (9) consumer and debt collection problems; (10) guardianships, and (11) discrimination and other civil rights issues. A client's legal problem handled under the project may be related specifically to his or her HIV status. However, in most situations, that is not necessarily the case. The client's rights to confidentiality are respected at all times.
Broad-based outreach is conducted about the availability of services. The intake process is flexible and responsive, accommodating disabilities and health conditions. As with many PSLS projects, we make accommodations for linguistic and cultural diversity. Clients are kept informed and work together with staff to determine the objective of the representation, to make decisions regarding the case, and to achieve goals in a timely fashion. Staff are trained and knowledgeable in the law and have HIV/AIDS awareness. Services are provided in a sensitive, compassionate, nonjudgmental and comprehensible manner. Our project attorneys are part of a continuum of care for persons with HIV/AIDS in their communities. Information, referral, networking and training regularly are exchanged with human service providers working with this population, and with HIV support groups. We are linked in all of these ways with the HIV/AIDS community, including with the various systems of case management.
Prairie State Legal Services HIV/AIDS Project has developed an assessment tool that helps people living with HIV and AIDS to determine their legal rights and needs. To download the assessment, click here.