Cisgender women living with HIV in Los Angeles County face an array of unmet legal needs

For Immediate Distribution
July 14, 2016

The Williams Institute,, 310-267-4382

The most frequently reported areas of legal need were not having a testamentary will or an advanced health care directive, health care access, consumer law and housing law.

LOS ANGELES — Cisgender (non-transgender) women living with HIV in Los Angeles County face a variety of legal needs that have a significant impact on their access to resources such as income, health care and housing, but most do not receive any legal assistance, according to a new analysis by researchers at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

When provided a list of needs that could be addressed by legal assistance, all of the cisgender women surveyed indicated that they had at least one legal need in the year prior to the survey, but more than three-quarters did not seek legal help. Of those women, one in four (24 percent) did not seek help because they could not afford it.

The study, titled “The Legal Needs of Cisgender Women Living with HIV: Evaluating Access to Justice in Los Angeles,” analyzes the responses from cisgender  female participants in a survey of almost 400 people living with HIV in Los Angeles County. Most of the respondents reported being low-income, unemployed and from communities of color. Of those respondents, 21 percent (82 individuals) identified as cisgender women, and more than 80 percent of these women identified as black or Latina.

“Perhaps most striking were results regarding families,” said Amira Hasenbush, Jim Kepner Law and Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute. “Eighty-four percent of cisgender women reported having children, which was significantly higher than the 22 percent of other survey respondents, and this was reflected in their increased need for assistance with custody and other family law issues.”

Key findings from the report include:

• All of the cisgender women surveyed reported an average of six distinct legal needs, of 69 possible legal needs identified by the survey.

• The vast majority of the cisgender women (83 percent) reported not having a testamentary will and/or an advanced health care directive. The other issue areas most frequently identified by respondents included health care access (49 percent), consumer law (48 percent) and housing law (39 percent).

• Nearly one in five (18 percent) of cisgender women reported experiencing discrimination in the year prior to the interview, and a quarter (26 percent) reported experiencing discrimination over a five-year period. This included experiences of discrimination in health care, housing and employment.

This study was co-authored by Amira Hasenbush, Jim Kepner Law and Policy Fellow; Ayako Miyashita, Sears Teaching Fellow; and Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Williams Institute.

Click here to read the report.

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