HIV Ethics And Law -- Questions & Answers

Are there confidentiality laws regarding HIV?
Yes there are, like other medical conditions. But remember these laws apply to business and not individuals. So remember a hospital may not tell your HIV status, a friend or former friend of your can tell and there isn't anything you can do about it. Also remember confidential information can be release to protect others and is always available upon a court order

Are the names of HIV people reported?
In some states they are, HIV is considered a sexually transmitted illness and is subject to state laws. All states require such reports; but they require that the information be "confidentially" reported. But this is open to interpretation.

Can a doctor/dentist or hospital deny treatment to a person with HIV?
No, while even into the early 1990s doctors refused treatment, this is no longer the case. However the law allows doctors and dentist to refer HIV infected individuals to other doctors if they feel they cannot appropriately treat the individual. In some places the doctors have simply stopped taking new patients. By only seeing patients that are referred to them they can get around the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Can people be forced to be tested for HIV?
Yes but not often. Courts have ordered the testing for HIV of individuals accused (not necessarily convicted) of rape. This is not common though. Also prisoners in some states are routinely tested, as well as the military. Some jobs require testing as a condition of employment, this is legal.

Can a person be denied health insurance because of HIV infection?
In general no, however if it is a preexisting condition the insurance company may deny coverage for HIV treatments or may require a waiting period (usually one or two years) before they will cover you for HIV related health issues. This is a common problem because in America most people's health insurance is tied to their employment and when they quit their job they lose their insurance. Those in this position can take advantage of continuing their insurance coverage after they leave their work through a law called COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). However the individual must pay all premiums themselves. It has an advantage because the payments are usually less than getting insurance on your own and you won't have a pre-existing condition. You can carry COBRA for up to 18 months.

Can a person with HIV qualify for Social Security benefits?
Not likely to happen, most people have to be diagnosed with AIDS before they can qualify. There are two kinds of social security, one is Social Security Income (SSI) and the other is Social Security Disability Income (SSD).

SSD also includes Medicare but there is a waiting period so you should file as soon as you can. Your SSD amount is based on your contributions made through your work history. This is seen on the deductions part of your payroll stub.

SSI does not require a waiting period and is not paid from your payroll deductions. SSI includes Medicare and usually food stamps. You may also be eligible for housing assistance.

Can an insurance company require me to be tested for HIV?
Yes as a condition of issuing the policy they can require you have a complete physical by a doctor of their choice. However they may only require the testing provide your medical history indicates such a condition may exist or they require it of all their applicants regardless of medical history.

What is cash for insurance?
Because AIDS can be a lengthy illness many companies will "Buy" your life insurance and give you back a percentage of the money. This is basically an advance on your policy. For instance if you have a $50,000 life insurance policy they will pay you say $40,000 for it and you make the life insurance policy your beneficiary.

I know I have HIV and practice unsafe sex, am I a criminal?
In some states yes you are, but the laws vary greatly from state to state. In some states you must disclose your HIV status if known, prior to any sexual contact. In others you must disclose it only if asked. In other states it doesn't apply at all. In addition if you expose others to your blood intentionally, but not through sexual relations you can be liable. For instance if you cut your hand and someone were to wash up the blood, you have a duty to tell them to protect themselves.

Also remember regardless of the criminality of having unsafe sex you can you can be sued in a civil court for money damages, regardless of state law.

Can they fire me for having HIV?
No under the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) they cannot fire you. It also requires them to make "reasonable" accommodations for your disability. However you still must be able to perform your job. For instance if the HIV drugs you take are making you absent too much, you can legally be let go from your job for excessive absenteeism.

Can someone put my HIV status on the Internet?
Hospials, employers and government agencies are not able to do so. However there is nothing to stop an individual from doing it. In general if you ask the person or company that owns the website they will take the information off for fear of a lawsuit. But as long as the statement is true, there is nothing to force them to take the information off. Websites generally comply with requests simply to avoid the cost of defending a lawsuit, even if they win.

Can I be forced out of my flat for having HIV?
No the FFHA (Federal Fair Housing Act) bans discrimination of all people with disabilities. However a landlord still has the right to simply refuse to renew your lease and not give a reason.

Can I be refused employment for having HIV?
No the ADA applies here. However taking an HIV test can be a condition of employment but the results can't be use in deciding whether or not to hire you. Also background checks can be used, for instance like checking your absentee record from prior jobs. And of course a employer can simply not give you a reason or say "we went with another candidate." The onus to prove discrimination is on you.

Do I have to tell my doctor or dentist if I have HIV?
Legally no, but ethically you do. A physician or dentist should be taking all barrier precautions anyway but if you lie to them they cannot treat you correctly. For instance a dentist who treats you and you lie and say you don't have HIV or fail to disclose it to them cannot be held liable if, say Novocain reacts with one of your HIV meds.

Do some countries ban people with HIV or AIDS?
Yes but in most cases it is not specifically for HIV. For example the United States bans all aliens who are infected with dangerous contagious diseases. As you see this can apply to HIV and lots of other diseases as well. Because medical facilities outside of America and other western nations are so sub par it's recommend HIV infected people not travel to those regions.

Do some nations quarantine those with HIV?
Yes, Cuba is a good example, and despite the human rights violations, Cuba claims it works. But this has not been independently verified.

My friend has HIV should I tell his partners?
Telling someone's status can have enormous consequences but is an ethical not legal problem. Legally you are fine. Laws forbidding disclosure of HIV status refer to government agencies and state regulated and licensed profession, not individuals Ethically there is a dilemma. For instance if you know he is practicing unsafe sex.

Do people with HIV tell their sexual partners?
Research has shown it's about 50/50. In addition some people tell the men their dating but not their "hookups." So it's hard to get a good clear answer. But overall when asked "Do you tell your sexual partners you are HIV+ before sexual relations" the result is 50% yes and 50% no.


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