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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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HIV/AIDS Discrimination and Stigma

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Examples of AIDS Discrimination

What exactly is AIDS discrimination? It means you are treated differently than other people simply because you are infected with HIV. For example:

  • A person denies you access to medical care at a hospital, medical or dental office, skilled nursing facility, or drug treatment center.
  • A person denies you child custody or visitation, or the right to adopt or become a foster parent.
  • An employer asks unlawful questions on a job application or harasses, fires, or transfers you to a lesser job position.
  • A person of authority reveals your HIV status at school, at work, or within a health care institution.
  • You are evicted from a rental property.

Know Your Rights If You Have HIV/AIDS

If you have HIV or AIDS, many federal, state, and local laws exist to ensure your right to work, education, and privacy. They also ensure your right to access information, treatment, and support.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it unlawful to discriminate based on disability. HIV meets the definition of disability under federal and state laws that protect the disabled from discrimination. This includes protection in employment, housing, government services, and public accommodations.

Your workplace rights. The ADA provides federal protection at work for people who are HIV-positive. Under this law, employees or applicants seeking a job with a company of 15 or more employees may have the following rights:

  • An employer cannot ask an applicant if he or she is HIV-positive unless the person has been offered a job. The employer also cannot demand a medical test before a job offer. They can only do it if all people offered jobs must take the same test.
  • An employer cannot refuse to hire a qualified candidate based on HIV status unless it would pose a direct threat to workers or the public. This threat is very rare.
  • An employer cannot withdraw a job offer unless the HIV illness would prevent the person from doing the job.
  • An employer cannot release information about a person's HIV status. It must be kept confidential.

Under the ADA, an employer may be required to make certain changes to allow a disabled person to do a job. The employer doesn't have to do this if it causes "undue hardship," such as financial strain on a small company.

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