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Public Interest Careers – Aids Advocacy

Each year, dozens of Yale Law School students and graduates apply for highly competitive fellowships in the U.S. and abroad. These experiences offer substantive, on-the-ground training for new attorneys and those seeking to shift practice focus. Fellows work in a range of settings—including nonprofits, government agencies, and international courts—gaining valuable contacts and experience that frequently serve as the foundation for a career in public interest work. Below is one graduate’s public interest story. You can see more stories here.

Eric A. Friedman ’02 
Bernstein Fellow
Physicians for Human Rights

Eric A. Friedman has been working on issues related to health and human rights for a decade—spending much of that time working on HIV/AIDS advocacy and issues of health care access. Now a fellow at Georgetown Law Center’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Friedman is working on the Joint Action and Learning Initiative on National and Global Responsibilities for Health. The initiative’s goal, essentially, is to develop a global health treaty that aims to reduce health inequities and is grounded in the right to health and the right’s commands of equality, accountability, and participation.

“Any role I may have in this effort—and the better health, above all, of the world’s poorest and most marginalized segments of society to which it might contribute—has its roots in the Bernstein Fellowship,” Friedman says.

Friedman credits his Bernstein fellowship as being the foundation of his career since law school. As a 3L, in fact, Friedman came “unexpectedly close” to accepting a private sector position at a law firm as public interest opportunities fell through. Instead, he was offered a Bernstein Fellowship—and the opportunity to pursue the human rights practice that had drawn him to studying law in the first place.

Friedman spent his Bernstein Fellowship year (2002–03) in the Washington, D.C., office of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and its newly launched AIDS campaign. “The position provided a welcome continuity from my time in the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic in law school,” Friedman says. “There I had initiated several projects on the global AIDS crisis, including having explored possible PHR advocacy on AIDS, before it launched its campaign.”

Friedman had been drawn to AIDS advocacy work by a broader concern for poverty. “It struck me (and still does) as a particularly gross and pervasive violation of people’s human rights, all the more so from the vantage point of what the U.S. could—but was failing—to do to address poverty,” Friedman says. “This concern led to my interest in Africa, and the debilitating impact of HIV/AIDS, with treatment largely unavailable (at the time), its rapid spread, and dire projections of its further growth.”

As a Bernstein Fellow, Friedman helped PHR mobilize the trust and influence of health professionals to advocate for a more robust, rights-based, public health-based U.S. response to the global AIDS pandemic. He worked on action alerts, health professional sign-on letters, factsheets, policy briefings, reports, and helped develop PHR’s long-term approach to AIDS-related advocacy, which would come to include legislative successes.

Following that fellowship year, he remained at PHR for nearly seven more years. Much of his work during that time was spent leading a health workforce campaign, which was focused on addressing the massive shortage and inequitable distribution of health workers in Africa and globally, and other health system deficits.

That work experience, in turn, positioned Friedman for his work at Georgetown Law Center.

“Looking back, the overriding value to me of the fellowship is that it was foundational to what is now a decade of policy and advocacy work on health and human rights, especially the human right to health,” Friedman says.

For more information about fellowship opportunities, visit www.law.yale.edu/studentlife/ylspublicinterestfellowships.htm.