UMMC, Center for Justice form partnership to benefit those with HIV/AIDS

Mississippi Business Journal

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI — The University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi Center for Justice, both in Jackson, are forming a partnership aimed at providing free civil legal services for people living with HIV and AIDS.

The collaboration includes the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Crossroads Clinics Central and the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation.

It’s the state’s first medical-legal partnership.

The Center for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm, will offer on-site legal assistance at the Crossroads Clinics. The assistance will focus primarily on HIV-related housing and employment discrimination.

Marni von Wilpert Skadden, legal fellow at the Center for Justice, said in a press release that those with HIV and AIDS “often lack access to legal resources. This program will help ensure they are treated fairly so they can lead productive, fulfilling lives.”

UMMC was involved in finding earlier this year what researchers called a “functional cure” for HIV, when a toddler born to a mother with the virus showed no signs of it after going several months between treatments.

“While we have made significant medical advances in managing HIV/AIDS, the ultimate success in improving these peoples’ lives is getting them back into society as full productive members,” said Dr. Claude Brunson, UMMC professor of anesthesiology and senior advisor to the vice chancellor for external affairs. “This partnership aims to achieve that goal.”

Demand should be heavy.

The city of Jackson has the fourth highest HIV infection rate of all U.S. metropolitan areas that report HIV infection information, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mississippi’s African-American population accounts for 78 percent of new infections, according to a recent MSDH study. Mississippi ranks 49th in funding civil legal services, according to the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission.

There are 97 medical-legal partnerships in the U.S. that serve 54,000 patients a year at more than 275 healthcare institutions.