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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OBTAINS $29,000 SETTLEMENT FROM CONNECTICUT DENTAL OFFICE FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PERSON WITH AIDS WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Connecticut dental office that allegedly refused to treat persons with AIDS will pay $29,000 in damages and penalties under an agreement signed today by the Justice Department. The agreement resolves a complaint filed with the Justice Department alleging that an East Hartford dental office violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to treat a Hartford man who later died of AIDS. "Discrimination against people with AIDS is based on unfounded fear, ignorance, and prejudice," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "There is no medical or legal justification for dentists or other health care providers to refuse to treat people with HIV or AIDS." The complaint, filed by the Legal Aid Society of Hartford County on behalf of the resident, alleged that the man had contacted the office, scheduled an appointment, and indicated that he had AIDS. The day before the scheduled appointment, however, the office called him to cancel his appointment stating that they would not treat patients with AIDS. Under the agreement, the dental office will no longer discriminate on the basis of a disability, pay $20,000 in compensatory damages to the complainant's estate and $9,000 in civil penalties to the U.S. treasury, publicize its policy of non-discrimination, and train its staff in the appropriate treatment of patients with HIV and AIDS. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in places of public accommodation, such as medical offices. Testing positive for HIV and having AIDS are both considered disabilities under the ADA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") and the American Dental Association have issued policy guidelines stating there is no medical justification for excluding persons from dental or orthodontic treatment solely on the basis of their HIV-positive or AIDS status. Both organizations recommend the use of "Universal Precautions," infection control procedures to prevent the transmission of bloodborne diseases, including HIV, in the health care setting. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require dental providers to use Universal Precautions in all dental facilities for all patients, regardless of known HIV or AIDS status. "We believe that the vast majority of the dental profession uphold their legal and ethical obligation to treat patients with HIV and AIDS," Patrick added. "But the Justice Department will continue to pursue those who violate the law." In September, the Justice Department obtained $100,000 in damages and civil penalties from a Houston dental provider for refusing to treat an HIV-positive man. Another suit, filed in October 1993, against a New Orleans dentist is currently pending. The Justice Department has received and opened about 30 complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of AIDS. # # # 95-020