Manhattan's Court of Claims has denied the State of New York's appeal to dismiss per se defamation claims raised by a Brooklyn model whose stock photo was used in a print advertisement falsely identifying her as an HIV patient.
The advertisement includes an image of Avril Nolan, who has never been diagnosed with HIV, placed alongside a copy indicating "I am positive" and "I have rights."
These statements are then followed by a smaller print that read as "People who are HIV positive are protected by the New York State Human Rights Law. Do you know your rights? Contact the NYS Division of Human Rights."
Such material was released in 2013 by the DHR as part of a larger educational campaign that the agency launched in collaboration with the AIDS Institute of the state's health department.
The court's official report states that the campaign was funded by the DOH to inform HIV-positive New Yorkers of their right against discrimination.
The Stigma Surrounding HIV-Positive Patients
In 2015, the court has ruled in favor of Nolan, saying that she could proceed with her lawsuit against the state as there is still enough stigma surrounding HIV.
The DHR countered with an appeal, asserting that the disease is no longer a shameful condition but lost once again in last Tuesday's proceedings.
"This is not to imply that we in any way regard HIV or any other disease to be 'loathsome'," writes Appellate Justice Angela Mazzarelli in the new decision. "A significant segment of society has been to slow in understanding that those who have the disease are entitled to equal treatment under the law and the full embrace of society."
This unanimous ruling gives Nolan the go signal to pursue her $1.5 million claims against the DHR. A report states that the model declines to discuss her claims while the state's Attorney General has not responded or commented yet on the matter.
Nolan first learned about the campaign through her Pilates instructor. With the court giving her a heads-up, she could now sue for the emotional distress that the DHR's false diagnosis had caused.
According to her suit, the model immediately felt upset that her relatives and clients, as well as potential romantic partners, would see her being featured as HIV positive.
She explains that she only posed for the photograph for a friend who had a shoot for an online music publication. This friend then sold her photo to Getty Images, which agreed to a settlement with Nolan in 2015.
Recommendations For Patients Living With HIV Or AIDS
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes an HIV diagnosis as "a life-changing event." A new patient is expected to feel a myriad of emotions including sadness, hopelessness, and anger.
During the early stages, it is recommended to reach out to health care and social service providers, who normally provide patients with tools that assist them in managing their disease.
Talking to other patients is also advised. Local support groups are among the resources the CDC approved for education on how to live with HIV or AIDS.