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Massachusetts Medical Society




The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to expand the reach of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and make discrimination on the basis of disability unlawful. The wheelchair symbol has become a universal sign of disability, but there are, of course, many types of disability that have been the basis of discrimination over the years, including blindness, deafness, epilepsy, cancer, heart disease, and mental retardation. AIDS is a disability under the ADA, and most commentators have assumed that infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) also qualifies as a disability under this act. It was not, however, until the summer of 1998 that the first discrimination case involving HIV infection or AIDS to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Bragdon v. Abbott, gave the Court the opportunity to interpret the ADA as it applies to HIV infection and to rule that Congress intended HIV infection to be included as a disability under the law.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Protecting Patients from Discrimination: The Americans with Disabilities Act and HIV Infection, Volume 339, Page 1255 Copyright ©(1998) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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