Staff and students from the WilmerHale Legal Services Center’s Health Law Clinic attended this year’s United States Conference on AIDS last month, where they introduced and described their new program to educate the public about the current state of health care law.

Together with Robert Greenwald, senior clinical instructor and lecturer on law, and Amy Rosenberg, a clinical instructor at HLS, Kendall Hancock ’09 and Steve Hurvitz ’10 shared details of the program—the State Healthcare Access Research Project (SHARP).

Staff and law students participating in SHARP will work with state partners to examine each state’s capacity to meet the care and treatment needs of people living with HIV and AIDS, and propose law and policy initiatives to expand access to health care. The program, which is funded through private grants, will initially examine Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas and Illinois.

“HIV/AIDS patients have to treat their disease as their full-time job,” said Hurvitz. “With government support steadily decreasing, patient costs increasing, and eligibility and benefits options becoming more restrictive, many people living with HIV and AIDS must navigate a maze of systems in order to receive care—care that is still often less than adequate. There are lots of opportunities for change. It’s just a matter of identifying which changes would make the biggest impact to everyone involved.”

Hancock and Hurvitz met with community organizers, advocates, health care providers, government officials, and people living with HIV/AIDS from Alabama, Arkansas, and North Carolina during their focus groups.

“It was incredible watching members of these communities open up to us to tell us about the different types of hardships they face on a daily basis,” said Hancock. “Each state has such unique strengths and weaknesses that it was exciting to think about strides we’ll be able to make in improving health care access for HIV/AIDS patients by working hand-in-hand with these newly formed community partnerships.”