“We are pleased to learn that the Hershey School has had to answer for its illegal and immoral HIV/AIDS discrimination and thank the AIDS Law Project for its tireless work on this teen’s case,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which contributed $50,000 to the legal defense of the boy when the case was first announced back in December 2011. “No doubt, advocacy aided this young man’s quest for justice. Advocates from AHF and many other groups and individuals spoke out against this repugnant discrimination by Hershey through protests, actions, letter writing campaigns and other advocacy efforts, and we vow to continue to do so when such discrimination arises.”
In its statement earlier today, ALPP also noted that, “…on Aug. 6, the school’s president, Anthony J. Colistra, publicly apologized to the student and to his mother, offered to reconsider the boy’s application, and announced “a new Equal Opportunity Policy clearly stating that the School treats applicants with HIV no differently than any other applicants.”
Background on Hershey School AIDS Discrimination
Last fall, The Milton Hershey School—a boarding school for low-income students funded by the Hershey Company—rejected the boy for admission citing his HIV-positive status as the reason, misguidedly calling him a “direct threat to the health and safety of others.” In response, AHF launched a website www.EndHIVStigma.org where the public could learn more about the case, learn the facts about HIV/AIDS and send e-letters to three Hershey Company board members who also sit on the board of the Milton Hershey School Trust, urging them to denounce the discrimination and facilitate the boy’s admission into the school. Since then, advocates from AHF spearheaded a boycott of Hershey, held numerous protests, press conferences and actions outside the school itself, in nearby Harrisburg, PA, by Hershey retail stores in New York and Chicago, at the Candy Expo trade show in Chicago.
At the time of the filing of the lawsuit against the Hershey School, Jessica Reinhart, Grassroots Community Manager for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said, “The ignorance displayed by the Hershey School’s leadership is unacceptable and demonstrates just how much work there is still to be done to dismantle the fear and misinformation that still surrounds this disease more than 25 years after Ryan White.”
Ryan White was an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who, in the mid-1980s, was expelled from middle school because he was HIV-positive. A lengthy legal battle with the school ensued and White became a galvanizing force in educating the country about HIV & AIDS at a time when misinformation about the disease was widespread. After his death in 1990, the U.S. Congress passed a major piece of legislation named in his honor, the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides funding for HIV/AIDS programs for low-income American.