The American Bar Association (ABA), a professional organization of nearly 400,000 lawyers and law students, adopted a resolution with the goal of reducing “the social determinants of health that drive the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” according to the ABA website.

“Social determinants of health” are defined in a related ABA report as “circumstances that are not ‘medical’ in nature but have an impact on health.” The report goes on to explain: “Lawyers often are better situated than doctors to mitigate these circumstances to benefit a patient/client’s health and, by extension, to promote public health generally. The classic example is that of the asthmatic patient living in a mold-infested rental dwelling who, consequently, is not benefiting from standard medical treatments for asthma. By intervening to force the patient/client’s landlord to remove the mold, however, lawyers deploy their professional skillsets to improve patient/client’s health.”

More specifically, the resolution urges governments and relevant private stakeholders to use appropriate legal and policy means to reduce the HIV-related social determinants. Such determinants include “poverty, stigma, discrimination, and racism; housing, food, and transportation insecurity; over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure; and misinformation about HIV transmission risk.”

The resolution and report are part of the ABA’s efforts to remain updated about HIV policies. To help with that goal, the ABA established the AIDS Coordinating Committee in 1987. Since then, the committee has developed a number of policies, partnerships and recommendations. It has also organized conferences and honored advocates in the HIV legal fields.

For related news, read the POZ profile “Making the Case for Equality: Lambda Legal fights for LGBT people and everyone with HIV.”