amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Awards of Courage

Theresa McGovern, J.D.

Honoring with Pride 2005 Honoree


Beginning with her groundbreaking work as the founder and executive director of the HIV Law Project, Theresa McGovern has defended and expanded the legal rights of women and low-income people with HIV/AIDS.

Ms. McGovern founded the HIV Law Project in 1989 to provide much needed civil legal representation to low-income HIV-positive individuals, and she served as executive director until 1999. During those years, she successfully litigated numerous cases against federal, state, and local governments, including S. P. v. Sullivan, which forced the Social Security Administration to expand the HIV-related disability criteria so that women and low-income people could qualify for Medicaid and social security. T. N. v. FDA eliminated a 1977 FDA guideline that restricted the participation of women of childbearing potential in early phases of clinical trials. As a member of the National Task Force on the Development of HIV/AIDS Drugs, Ms. McGovern authored the 2001 federal regulation authorizing the FDA to halt any clinical trial for a life-threatening disease that excludes women.

Ms. McGovern has published extensively and has testified numerous times before Congress and other policy-making groups. In 1999, she was awarded an Open Society Institute Fellowship and an appointment at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. In 2001, she was appointed assistant professor of clinical population and family health and of sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School, where she is director of the Women’s Health and Human Rights Advocacy Project; the project is currently collaborating with advocates in Florida and South Carolina to develop effective strategies to improve access to healthcare and protect the human rights of women and marginalized communities. Ms. McGovern is a project advisor to the United Nations Population Fund project Addressing the Linkages Between HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Inequality in Latin American and the Caribbean From a Gender and Human Rights Perspective.

In response to her mother’s death in the World Trade Center attacks, Ms. McGovern initiated the Models of Resistance Project. This effort, undertaken with numerous international organizations fighting fundamentalist violence, works to identify and develop effective victim-led models of resistance to fundamentalism. She advocated for full disclosure and accountability on the part of the 9/11 Commission and has founded 9/11 Families for Truth and Human Rights. Ms. McGovern is also the proud mother of a three-year-old son, Liam.