ORGANIZATION | Inducted 2003

Formed in 1988, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago has helped nearly 15,000 persons with free legal assistance, conducted educational outreach efforts, and engaged in public advocacy on behalf of persons affected by HIV.

When the AIDS epidemic first appeared, ignorance and prejudice created complex legal problems for those initially affected by the disease, particularly young gay men. They faced harsh discrimination from employers, health-care providers, and insurance companies. They needed powers of attorney to grant their partners access to their hospital rooms. Those who were dying needed help in making plans for their partners and families. In response, a group of volunteers led by the late James Monroe Smith came together in 1988 and started AIDS Legal Council of Chicago (ALCC) . In 15 years,

Last year, the small legal staff of four attorneys and four paralegals assisted clients with a record number of cases—nearly 1,600. It also expanded its outreach among communities of color, particularly gay men of color.

Because homophobia and stigma have bred discrimination against persons living with HIV disease, ALCC engages in an extensive program of community outreach and educates thousands each year on HIV-related legal issues.

As a leader in AIDS advocacy, ALCC works with other organizations to advocate for fair public policies. By working with the Chicago and Illinois public health departments to improve the patient code-number identifying system, it has fought efforts to implement name-based HIV reporting in Illinois, a system that could seriously compromise the confidentiality of people with HIV. ALCC is also collaborating with a coalition of advocates, including the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, to expand access to health care for persons with HIV through changes to the Medicaid system.

ALCC has shown flexibility in meeting the changing needs of persons affected by HIV. Since 1991, when it opened its first satellite office at Cook County Hospital, ALCC has launched targeted programs for Latinos, African Americans, HIV-positive immigrants, and HIV-positive persons with mental health problems. The group’s Family Options Program helps parents with HIV to make plans for the future care of their children, and its Benefits Counseling Initiative assists clients with questions about returning to work.

ALCC’s work has been recognized by awards from the City of Chicago (1999 and 2002), the Illinois Department of Public Health (2000), and the HIV Positive Action Coalition (1999). (Please note: this information has not been updated since the time of the member’s induction).