Statement by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband on World AIDS Day

On December 1, as our country joins in observing World AIDS Day, the Justice Department stands with all people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30 years ago, the department has worked zealously, through enforcement, outreach, and technical assistance, to protect and advance the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS. This past year is no exception. 

In recognizing World AIDS Day 2020 Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband gave the following statement: 

“The Department of Justice is proud to play a central role in protecting the civil rights of individuals living with HIV and AIDS. On this day, the Civil Rights Division reaffirms its commitment to eradicating discrimination against those living with HIV or AIDS. Discrimination against individuals with HIV or AIDS is not only unlawful, it also is contrary to this nation’s ideals. As long as the unlawful treatment of persons living with HIV and AIDS continues, the Justice Department will continue its efforts to protect their rights.”

Notably, the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement efforts over the last year have helped ensure that people with HIV and AIDS are not turned away when seeking medical care because of unfounded fears and misinformation about the virus. In March 2020, the department entered into a settlement agreement with a nationwide pharmacy after an investigation substantiated that an individual was denied a flu shot after disclosing that he has HIV. The agreement requires the company to pay compensatory damages to the individual and a civil penalty to the government, and to provide training to all pharmacists on this issue.

Another settlement agreement resolved allegations that an individual, who due to back pain sought a breast reduction procedure at the recommendation of her primary care provider, was denied that procedure because she has HIV. The Illinois-based plastic surgery provider agreed to pay compensatory damages to the complainant and to ensure that its customers are aware that the practice welcomes patients with disabilities. 

Still other resolutions addressed the ability of individuals living with HIV to access the vast array of goods, services, and privileges regularly available to all members of the public. One settlement agreement addressed the allegation that an individual with HIV was turned away by a provider of cosmetic medical procedures in California. The provider was required to pay compensatory damages to the individual and a civil penalty to the United States, and to provide training on ADA requirements. Another settlement agreement resolved allegations that an Illinois tattoo provider refused to provide tattoo services to a prospective customer who disclosed that she has HIV. The settlement agreement secured a monetary payment to the individual and the business adopted a non-discrimination policy.

Finally, this year we worked to ensure that children are not denied opportunities based on their actual or perceived HIV status. Specifically, we entered into a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that a daycare in New Jersey denied admission to the complainant’s child based on the perception that the child has HIV or hepatitis. The agreement requires the daycare to adopt a non-discrimination policy, train staff, and pay compensatory damages to the complainant.

As we support our federal agency partners in furthering the nation’s shared goal to eradicate HIV altogether, the department will continue its enforcement, outreach, and technical assistance work to ensure that people living with the virus enjoy their rights. Until the day when HIV is eliminated, we will act every day to stamp out the scourge of illegal discrimination against those living with the virus. 

To learn more about the department’s work, please visit www.ada.gov/hiv

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    GAO identified 59 for-profit college conversions that occurred from January 2011 through August 2020, almost all of which involved the college's sale to a tax-exempt organization. In about one-third of the conversions, GAO found that former owners or other officials were insiders to the conversion—for example, by creating the tax-exempt organization that purchased the college or retaining the presidency of the college after its sale (see figure). While leadership continuity can benefit a college, insider involvement in a conversion poses a risk that insiders may improperly benefit—for example, by influencing the tax-exempt purchaser to pay more for the college than it is worth. Once a conversion has ended a college's for-profit ownership and transferred ownership to an organization the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes as tax-exempt, the college must seek Department of Education (Education) approval to participate in federal student aid programs as a nonprofit college. Since January 2011, Education has approved 35 colleges as nonprofit colleges and denied two; nine are under review and 13 closed prior to Education reaching a decision. Figure: Example of a For-Profit College Conversion with Officials in Insider Roles IRS guidance directs staff to closely scrutinize whether significant transactions with insiders reported by an applicant for tax-exempt status will exceed fair-market value and improperly benefit insiders. If an application contains insufficient information to make that assessment, guidance says that staff may need to request additional information. In two of 11 planned or final conversions involving insiders that were disclosed in an application, GAO found that IRS approved the application without certain information, such as the college's planned purchase price or an appraisal report estimating the college's value. Without such information, IRS staff could not assess whether the price was inflated to improperly benefit insiders, which would be grounds to deny the application. If IRS staff do not consistently apply guidance, they may miss indications of improper benefit. Education has strengthened its reviews of for-profit college applications for nonprofit status, but it does not monitor newly converted colleges to assess ongoing risk of improper benefit. In two of three cases GAO reviewed in depth, college financial statements disclosed transactions with insiders that could indicate the risk of improper benefit. Education officials agreed that they could assess this risk through its audited financial statement review process and could develop procedures to do so. Until Education develops and implements such procedures for new conversions, potential improper benefit may go undetected. A for-profit college may convert to nonprofit status for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to align its status and mission. However, in some cases, former owners or other insiders could improperly benefit from the conversion, which is impermissible under the Internal Revenue Code and Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. GAO was asked to examine for-profit college conversions. This report reviews what is known about insider involvement in conversions and to what extent IRS and Education identify and respond to the risk of improper benefit. GAO identified converted for-profit colleges and reviewed their public IRS filings. GAO also examined IRS and Education processes for overseeing conversions, interviewed agency officials, and reviewed federal laws, regulations and agency guidance. GAO selected five case study colleges based on certain risk factors, obtained information from college officials, and reviewed their audited financial statements. In three cases, GAO also reviewed Education case files. Because of the focus on IRS and Education oversight, GAO did not audit any college in this review to determine whether its conversion improperly benefitted insiders. GAO is making three recommendations, including that IRS assess and improve conversion application reviews and that Education develop and implement procedures to monitor newly converted colleges. IRS said it will assess its review process and will evaluate GAO's other recommendation, as discussed in the report. Education agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or emreyarrasm@gao.gov.
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