Contact: HHS Office for Civil Rights, 1-800-368-1019

August 21, 2014

HHS Ensures Equal Access for Individuals Living with HIV/AIDS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with Williamston House (WH), an assisted living facility, located in Williamston, North Carolina. The Agreement resolves a complaint that alleged that WH denied admission to an individual based on his HIV status, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

OCR enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex and religion by health care and human service providers. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, which includes HIV and AIDS, in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes and hospitals.

OCR concluded that WH may not have followed appropriate non-discrimination policies or procedures regarding the admittance of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Under the Agreement, WH will report to OCR for a twelve month period; establish non-discrimination polices; designate a Section 504 Coordinator; implement patient grievance procedures; and inform patients of their right to file complaints with OCR. In addition, WH staff will receive comprehensive training on the requirements of Section 504. Specifically, the training will emphasize WH’s responsibility to provide disabled individuals, including but not limited to individuals living with HIV/AIDS, with equal access to the services, privileges, facilities, accommodations, and benefits of the facility.

A copy of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/activities/agreements/williamston.html

This matter emphasizes the need for health care providers of all types to ensure their compliance with Section 504 to prevent admission decisions based on discriminatory considerations. This matter also supports the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the National HIV Care Continuum, which are federally-coordinated efforts to reduce new HIV infections, increase access to care, improve health outcomes, and eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

OCR enforces multiple civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and religion by health care and human service providers. When OCR determines that there has been a violation of the law, OCR seeks voluntary compliance and provides technical assistance to health care and human service providers. OCR also has the authority to seek remedies as necessary in the event of noncompliance


To learn more about non-discrimination and health information privacy laws, your civil rights and privacy rights in health care and human service settings, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit www.hhs.gov/ocr.

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on August 21, 2014