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What Is HIV Discrimination?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Individuals who have HIV or AIDS will generally be protected under the law from discrimination. However, recognizing HIV or AIDS discrimination may be difficult.

Individuals with HIV or AIDS can face discrimination in nearly every facet of life. Sadly, even children have been shunned by schools, daycares, after school programs, and their peers and other parents. Adults can suffer discrimination at work, in businesses, at hospitals, and also among their peers and colleagues. A recent case was settled where an Iraqi war veteran was denied aquatic physical therapy due to a policy prohibiting HIV positive individuals in the pool.

Different Types of HIV Discrimination

HIV is a serious, potentially fatal virus that can develop into the disease AIDS. AIDS is a disease that compromises the immune system, leaving a person extraordinarily vulnerable to succumb to other illnesses and infections that a healthy person would be able to stave off. Individuals with either HIV or AIDS generally are protected by the federal laws that prohibit disability discrimination, genetic information discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination.

Most often, an individual with AIDS or HIV will encounter discrimination from individuals who do not understand how the virus is transmitted. This can lead to individuals being left out of normal activities, or denied certain rights, because others fear that just being around a person with HIV will lead to the transmission of the virus.

Additionally, individuals can suffer sexual orientation discrimination because others unfairly assume that all individuals contracted the virus through homosexual activity. Often, adults will face employment discrimination based on their employer's belief that their HIV status impacts their ability to perform or represent the company at higher levels.

Under federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act provides strong protections for individuals with HIV and AIDS. Individuals with either easily meet the definition of disabled under the ADA, which requires showing that one of a person's major life functions is compromised. In addition to the ADA, other state and federal laws provide avenues to stop discrimination based on a person's HIV status.

If you believe you have encountered discrimination due to having AIDS or being HIV positive, or due to your association with someone who has HIV or AIDS, you can contact a civil rights attorney to learn about what you can do to fight back.

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