Terry McGovern

Terry McGovern

Terry McGovern

Interim Chair and Professor
Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Medical Center


60 Haven B-2
New York NY 10032


Terry McGovern founded the HIV Law Project in 1989 where she served as its executive director until 1999. Ms. McGovern successfully litigated numerous cases against the federal, state and local governments including S.P. v. Sullivan which forced the Social Security Administration to expand HIV-related disability criteria so that women and low income individuals can qualify for Medicaid and social security, and T.N. v. FDA, which eliminated a 1977 FDA guideline restricting 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, she authored the 2001 federal regulation authorizing the FDA to halt any clinical trial for a life threatening disease that excludes women. In 1999, she was awarded an Open Society Institute Fellowship and an appointment at the Mailman School. In 2001, she was named director of the Women's Health and Human Rights Advocacy Project, whose goal is to improve the reproductive and overall healthcare of low- income women, and work on issues related to fundamentalisms and the impact on women's human rights. Ms. McGovern has published extensively and testified numerous times before Congress and other policymaking entities. From 2006 until 2012, she was Senior Program Officer in the Gender, Rights and Equality Unit of the Ford Foundation. She oversaw global and domestic programming relating to HIV, gender, LGBT and Human Rights.



JD, 1986, Georgetown University
BA, 1983, SUNY

Other Affiliations

Founder/Executive Director HIV Law Project, 1989-1999
National Task Force On AIDS Drug Development, 1994-1996
Centers for Disease Control External Review Committee, 1993-1994
United States Confernce of Mayors Advisory Board On Perinatal Transmission of HIV, 1996-1998
Independent Judicial Screening Panel, 1999
9/11 United Services Group Family Advisory Committee

Honors & Awards

New York State Bar Association's Public Interest award, 1996
Commissioner of FDA award, 1996
New York Women's Foundation Helen Hunt Award, 1995
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Liberty Award, 1993
Brooklyn Historical Society History Maker Award, 1993

Areas of Expertise

Human Rights, HIV/AIDS

Select Urban Health Activities

HIV Law Project: Prof. McGovern founded the HIV Law Project to provide civil legal representation to low-income HIV-positive persons. The Project offers legal services in the areas of housing, family law, immigration, financial benefits and discrimination. The project successfully challenged the Social Security's reliance on the restrictive CDC AIDS definition in S.P. v. Sullivan. The project also conducted large scale advocacy campaigns on behalf of women with HIV including challenging mandatory testing of women, The FDA's exclusion of women of childbearing potential from clinical trials and other policies that discriminated against low income HIV positive individuals.
9/11 Accountabilty Project: Prof. McGovern worked with other family members who lost loved ones on September 11th to fight for the 9/11 commission and monitor its results. She has been actively involved in issues relating to 9/11 including the delivery of mental health services to the affected.
Women's Health and Human Rights Initiative: Prof. McGovern works to broaden the understanding of the impact of fundamentalist violence and policies on women.

Select Global Activities

Women's Health and Human Rights Initiative, India, Rwanda, Sri Lanka: Prof. McGovern works with numerous international organizations to explore advocacy strategies for health and human rights as well as for female victims of fundamentalist/communal violence.
Models of Resistance Project, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sri Lanka: Identifying and analyzing victim-led advocacy responses to fundamentalist violence in India, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, the U.S. and Pakistan.

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