PUBLISHED:February 25, 2014

McAllaster honored by ABA for excellence in provision of HIV legal services, advocacy

Carolyn McAllaster Clinical Professor Carolyn McAllaster

Clinical Professor Carolyn McAllaster will receive the American Bar Association’s Alexander D. Forger Award for Sustained Excellence in the Provision of HIV Legal Services and Advocacy on Feb. 28.  McAllaster, the director of the Duke AIDS Legal Project and advanced AIDS Policy Clinic, will be one of five Forger Award recipients at the ABA’s bi-annual HIV/AIDS Law & Practice Conference in Atlanta.

McAllaster, who teaches courses relating to AIDS and the law, founded the AIDS Legal Project in 1996, after training and supervising student volunteers in drafting wills for people living with HIV and AIDS.  She also serves as project director of the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative (SASI), a broad-based coalition of advocates launched in 2011 to advocate for increased federal resources to stop the spread of HIV in the South, where infection and AIDS death rates are high.

The Forger Awards were established in 2012 to honor individuals and organizations for their longtime provision of HIV legal services and other forms of advocacy said Michael Pates, director of the ABA’s Center for Human Rights and AIDS Coordination Project.

“Carolyn has been at it a very long time, and she’s done it very well over many trials and tribulations,” he said. “We know that she is a leader particularly in the South, where the domestic epidemic is raging strongest.”  Pates praised McAllaster’s work in addressing stigma faced by people with HIV and AIDS and other cultural factors, as well as legal matters. “The committee was particularly impressed with her efforts to address those legal and somewhat non-legal issues that bear on the epidemic in the South, in particular,” he said. 

Senior Lecturing Fellow Allison Rice, a supervising attorney in the AIDS Legal Project, said that her longtime colleague “richly deserves” to be in the company of the other 2014 Forger Award recipients, Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, former Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney David I. Schulman, the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and Lambda Legal. All have made important contributions to protecting and expanding the legal rights of people living with HIV.   

“Carolyn fits right in with this impressive group of honorees,” said Rice.  “Her work over the last 20 plus years has grown from a small pro bono project in which students drafted wills for HIV positive individuals, to a clinical course offering this population a wide array of services, to policy advocacy on both the state and national levels. Her most recent project, directing the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative, has put her in the forefront of efforts to study the impact of HIV in the southern states, identify inequities in the distribution of federal resources, and educate federal policymakers about the unique needs of the South. 

“Carolyn has gained the attention and respect of the national HIV/AIDS advocacy community because of her intelligence, grace, and ability to keep people with differing interests working toward a common goal,” said Rice.

Both McAllaster and Rice will take part in presentations and panel discussions at the two-day conference being held at Georgia State University College of Law.