History: 20 Years Fighting for Justice & Dignity
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, HIV Law Project remains the only legal agency providing comprehensive legal services exclusively to low-income people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City. HIV Law Project handles nearly 1,000 cases each year addressing a range of critical legal needs for positive people, including housing advocacy and eviction prevention, immigration services, and benefits issues. In addition to its renowned direct legal services program, HIV Law Project partners with positive women through its Center for Women & HIV Advocacy to advance public policies that are responsive to their needs and enhance their lives as women living with HIV. Informed by 20 years of experience on the front lines of HIV services, HIV Law Project monitors national policy as it impacts women with HIV, engages in education campaigns and produces policy reports on a range of domestic HIV health and human rights issues.
HIV Law Project targets its resources to traditionally underserved populations, particularly women and their families; people of color; undocumented and recent immigrants; members of the LGBT community; and the homeless.
Founded in 1989, HIV Law Project has been at the forefront of legal and advocacy services to low-income HIV-positive New Yorkers, particularly women and people of color. At a time when AIDS was primarily seen as a disease affecting upper- and middle-class white gay men, a growing population of poor HIV-positive women and men of color desperately needed legal services but had nowhere to turn for help. To fill that gap, Terry McGovern, Esq., established HIV Law Project. HIV Law Project filed its first class action against the federal government in 1990, challenging the Social Security Administration’s discriminatory denial of disability benefits to women and people of color. Initially operating under the umbrella three other organizations, HIV Law Project became an independently chartered non-profit corporation in 1994. Terry McGovern served as the founding Executive Director until 1999.
After an interim appointee through 2001, Tracy L. Welsh, Esq., a seasoned public-interest lawyer and committed HIV activist, joined HIV Law Project as Executive Director in 2002. Assuming leadership during crisis, Ms. Welsh led the agency back to fiscal and programmatic stability. HIV Law Project has since built is infrastructure, rebranded its public image, expanded communications, and established a strategic plan to ensure its on-going innovation and long-term viability. HIV Law Project has expanded its direct legal services to respond to clients’ changing needs and greatly enhanced it public policy role at both the local and national levels.