‘What legal issues should I be aware of?’

This section provides information about four important legal areas:

Confidentiality

A common concern about testing is whether confidentiality can be guaranteed, and if it is ‘safer’ to go to a clinic rather than a GP for an HIV test, especially as test requests don’t contain patient details.

All health services provide a confidential service. However, if you are worried about going to a local service in case you know the health professionals socially or don't want to be seen going inside, you can find another service.

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Insurance

Previously, someone who had been tested for HIV may have been refused insurance. Now life insurance companies don’t usually impose conditions or refuse cover because you have had an HIV test. They can ask for access to medical records, with your consent.

GPs and other NHS health professionals should not disclose whether a patient has ever had a test or the reasons for testing.

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Employment

You are not obliged to tell anyone your status but there are many situations when you may feel obliged, especially in the workplace.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 offers protection for people with HIV from the point of diagnosis in most settings, including the workplace, healthcare settings and in the provision of goods and services. The Act has a provision for employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, such as time off for appointments or possible flexible hours.

This is a complicated and changing area of legal practice. If you are directly affected by these issues, then seek specialist advice, either from your local HIV support agency, a local advice agency or CAB (external site), or a solicitor.

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HIV transmission

Very few people in Scotland have been prosecuted for passing on HIV, but it can happen in certain circumstances.

In Scotland, an HIV positive person may be prosecuted if they ‘recklessly endanger’ someone, i.e., having sex without a condom, even if that other person isn’t infected in the process.

In practice, a prosecution is more likely where someone who has tested HIV positive doesn’t disclose his status to a partner he knows to be negative, and passes the infection to his partner through unprotected sex - and this partner then makes a formal complaint to the police.

There are several organisations that can provide in-depth support and advice on housing, money, employment, travel, treatment and the law for men living with HIV.

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