Your Legal Rights
It is important to know that there is a law that protects people who have HIV, called The Equality Act. You can read more about this here. HIV is listed as a disability under this act, and people who have HIV are protected by law, right from the time they find out they have the virus. This law means that if someone is treated differently in school, college or the workplace because they have HIV, they can take a company or an organisation to court. The law also states that no-one can be asked questions about their health when they apply for a job. It is there to protect HIV positive people and their families (as well as other disabled people).
Remember that lots of people need these laws, whether they have a chronic illness, like diabetes or HIV, or maybe if they are returning to work after an illness, or after an operation.
The following information might be useful when you are thinking about applying for a job, or when you are actually working.
You do not have to discuss your condition with your workmates or managers. It is up to you when or if you disclose it to them. Sometimes it is helpful for somebody you trust to know about your condition at work but that is your decision.
Some job applications ask if you have any disabilities. The National Aids Trust has some really detailed advice about recruitment and employment, including whether to declare yourself as disabled or not. If you declare yourself disabled you can be protected by the laws around disability and equality. You can choose to answer no, or can leave the space blank.
Some people may have gaps in their employment history because of periods of illness. An employer may ask about these, and want to know why you weren’t working for a certain length of time. The National Aids trust gives some good advice about this too.
You could decide to explain this is due to a disability which doesn’t get in the way of you doing the new job or you could explain that it was due to a health issue which is now under control. You could disclose your HIV status and answer any questions the interviewer might have.
The National Aids Trust website has some useful information about whether to disclose your HIV status to your employer or not, and the advantages and disadvantages of both options.
Unfortunately we currently have laws in the UK which mean that someone can be prosecuted for passing on HIV to someone else, for example by having sex. There are lots of things that would have to be proved before someone can be prosecuted though. If you are under 18 and you are involved in a situation like this and end up being arrested then this checklist could be useful: Also, there is a thorough document here explaining the law, produced by CHIVA and NAT.