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Social Security Administration Proposes Regulation Changes that will Impact Access to Benefits for Women with HIV

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has proposed changes to regulations that could exclude women with HIV from accessing disability benefits when needed. “We would evaluate the manifestations of HIV infection using the same criteria regardless of a person’s gender,” say the new proposed SSA regulations, which recommend removing Section 14.00F4’s guidance on HIV infection manifestations specific to women.

The problem? HIV, and HIV progression, can manifest differently in women (examples: women with HIV are more prone to vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, genital ulcers unrelated to herpes, and pelvic inflammatory disease) but many doctors contracted by SSA to determine eligibility for benefits may be unfamiliar with HIV and even less familiar with the ways HIV manifests in women.

As the 30 for 30 Campaign responds, “This rationale ignores the medical need for and history behind the inclusion of women-specific language… Gender neutrality is an inappropriate goal where a disease manifests differentially.”

Women-specific symptoms and manifestations of HIV disease must remain part of the listing so that if a claim is denied despite the presence of such symptoms, claimants have recourse and guidance to point to. A report commissioned by the SSA from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2011 supports this recommendation.

The SSA is accepting comments on these proposed changes until May 27th. The 30 for 30 Campaign has written a sign on letter available here, with comments specific to women, and Lambda Legal and the HIV Health Care Access Working Group have developed a sign on letter with additional important comments.

To view the 30 for 30 letter, click here and to sign on email: ayager(at)hivlawproject.org by Friday May 23rd.

To view the Lambda Legal/HIV Health Care Access Working Group letter, click here and to sign on email: kmiller(at)hivma.org by May 26th.

 

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