About 50,000 people are newly infected with HIV each year in America. HIV affects many different people, but it has a disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ community, as well as young people and people of color. About two-thirds of new infections are contracted among gay or bisexual men. There is also a high rate of new infections among transgender women. In the past decade, there have been huge medical breakthroughs, but there is no cure and stigma and discrimination remain significant problems for people living with HIV.
Rights Related to HIV
For many people, getting tested for HIV is itself a source of anxiety due to the extreme stigma associated with the condition. Tests may be either confidential or anonymous in most states. With the former, the tester knows the identity of the individual being tested and a report goes both to the individual and the government. Like all information in someone’s medical records, the test result is kept confidential. If federal funds are used to pay for a test, the legal name of the individual who is tested will be reported to the government. Not all states permit anonymous testing, but in the ones that do an individual is tested without any disclosure of identity. Instead, an identification number is assigned, and the results of the test are revealed to that number.
Indiana and North Carolina are the only states in which you are required to inform your previous sexual partners of a positive HIV test. In other states, you are not required to notify prior partners, but your state laws might require you to disclose your positive status to future sexual partners. There are partner notification programs that can contact prior partners for you, explaining a new HIV diagnosis without disclosing your name.
In most cases, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire you or to fire you if you are HIV positive. A prospective employer should not ask you about your HIV status during a job interview. Moreover, your HIV status shouldn’t determine your ability to perform a job. However, if it does affect your ability to work at your job, federal, state, and city laws may protect you. The primary federal law that would apply is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA applies to workplaces other than federal agencies with at least 15 employees. It prohibits discrimination against those who are actually disabled or perceived to be disabled. In 2008, Congress amended the ADA to make clear that this law extends to HIV positive employees. Under the ADA, you may be entitled to accommodations related to HIV, and employment decisions may not be based on the fear that you will get sick in the future or that an employer will have greater costs for medical insurance or workers’ compensation.
If you are HIV positive, your ability to access healthcare may now be protected under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This means that insurance companies cannot charge you more money for premiums based on a pre-existing condition such as HIV. There are some plans that have been grandfathered in under the ACA; these are exceptions to this general rule. The ACA also expanded Medicaid, but 16 states have chosen not to expand their programs. Cost coupled with discrimination remains a substantial barrier to obtaining affordable care for LGBTQ individuals living with HIV in those states. Care for HIV may also be available under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, but the benefits available are different depending on the state.
Traditionally, there were regulations that barred HIV positive immigrants or travelers from coming into the country. These regulations have since been rescinded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).