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Legal issues

As a person living with HIV you have the same rights as any other Australian citizen, as well as certain responsibilities relating to the transmission of HIV.

This section has information about issues in your life that may be affected by the law:  

 

The HIV /AIDS Legal Centre can assist with legal problems, or refer you to a local service. Some AIDS Councils also provide legal services.

HALC has published a resource on legal issues specifically for HIV-positive women. Download it from the HALC website.

 

 

 

 

Confidentiality

Having people to talk to about HIV is important. At the same time, you may not want certain people to know that you have the virus. Before telling anyone, ask yourself whether that person needs to know, whether you trust that person and how it might affect your relationship with them.

There are laws in most states in Australia which protect your confidentiality. This means that it's generally against the law for doctors, nurses and health care providers to tell anyone that you're positive without your consent. However, the general public are not bound by these laws so it's very important that you are able to trust the people you tell.

People using the new Personally-Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) can exercise considerable control over which health-care professionals can access what documents. Nevertheless, a sensitive document that a person may wish to have removed from their PCEHR – known as 'effective removal'  can be accessed by police for law enforcement purposes, including potentially for investigations into HIV transmission. Therefore, people with HIV should weigh carefully whether they wish to their HIV status to be linked to their PCEHR in the first place.

If you would like to speak confidentially to someone, AIDS councils and People living with HIV groups can offer you a safe place to talk about HIV, especially when deciding who you might tell.

 

Disclosure

Although you are not generally obliged to tell anyone your status, the law may require you to tell people under certain circumstances. These laws vary from state to state.

Some cases of non-disclosure have ended up in court, so it's best to check with your local Community Legal Centre or AIDS Council to see how the laws in your particular state might affect your decision to disclose.

The HIV AIDS Legal Centre has published guides to the laws about disclosure for NSW, SA and WA. 

Situations where you may asked to disclose
  • In some states you are legally required to disclose your HIV status to sexual partners. 
  • The law states that HIV-positive people cannot donate blood, semen, ova or any other body tissues, so application forms given to potential donors may ask about HIV status.
  • The Department of Immigration and Border Protection requires anyone applying for permanent residency and some other types of visas to provide the results of an HIV test.
  • You may be asked about your HIV status if applying for life insurance or by your superannuation fund. Some companies may refuse to insure you if you are HIV positive or if you refuse to tell them your status.
  • People working in healthcare are required to disclose if they will be performing exposure-prone procedures.
  • People applying to work in the defence forces are required to test for HIV. 

See also:

 

Discrimination

As an HIV-positive person, you have many legal rights that protect you from discrimination. You cannot be refused a job, housing, medical services or dental services just because you live with HIV.

Discrimination based on HIV status is illegal throughout Australia under Commonwealth law, and some states have separate legislation to protect you against HIV-related discrimination.

It is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of HIV-positive status for employment, education, the provision of goods, services and facilities, accommodation, buying or selling property, club membership, sport and administration of Commonwealth programs.

The law also protects people who are believed to be HIV-positive and people who associate with HIV-positive people.

All states and territories have their own anti-discrimination laws making it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of physical handicap or impairment. HIV/AIDS is included under this heading.

What can you do if you have been treated unfairly?

If you feel you may have been discriminated against or if you would like more information about the various laws covering HIV-positive people, contact your local AIDS Council.

You can also contact your Anti-Discrimination/Equal Opportunity authority, Medical Complaints Body or your Local Community Legal Centre.


This page was published on 12 January, 2011

This page was reviewed on 10 December 2015