MA, Know Your Rights: HIV
Discrimination on the basis of HIV status is prohibited by both state and federal anti-discrimination laws, such as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
These laws protect all people who are HIV-positive, perceived to be HIV-positive, and people who “associate” with a person with HIV.
You are protected from discrimination based on your HIV status in:
- Employment: You cannot be denied employment, fired, or otherwise discriminated against at work because of your HIV status. Massachusetts also prohibits an employer from requiring an HIV test or asking about HIV status.
- Public accommodations: A public accommodation is a business or place that is open to the public. It includes doctors’ offices and hospitals, bars, restaurants, health clubs, hotels, and agencies that provide services. You cannot be denied access or treated differently in any of these places based on HIV status.
- State or local government services
Medical providers are prohibited from revealing to anyone your HIV test results or status unless you give specific consent in writing.
If a medical provider violates this prohibition, you have a clear right under Massachusetts law to sue for damages.
If someone who is not a medical provider (e.g. your boss or landlord) reveals your HIV status to others, you have the right to sue under Massachusetts’ general privacy law.
Your potential employer cannot ask about health or disability before making a job offer.
The ADA permits medical exams and questions about health after a job offer as long as all employees in that category are asked the same questions.
You cannot be required to take an HIV test under any circumstances.
Your oral consent is required for you to be tested. If you’re under 18, you can give your consent to be tested without your parents’ permission.
You may have the right to receive PrEP without your parents’ permission, if they are not with you at the doctor’s office.
HIV/STI Testing and Counseling Resources
- Planned Parenthood – HIV/STI Testing and sexual healthcare
- Fenway Health – specializing in healthcare for LGBTQ communities and people living with HIV/AIDS
- BAGLY – Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth
- Boston GLASS – a variety of services for LGBTQ Youth, including HIV testing
Disability anti-discrimination laws require “reasonable accommodation” in employment (and many other settings as well).
“Reasonable accommodation” is a modification of policies/procedures to enable an employee with a disability to perform the job.
If you are unable to work and are on SSDI or private disability insurance, it is important to work closely with your medical providers to make sure that the medical documentation supports your continuing need for disability insurance.
MA private health plans and MassHealth must provide coverage for the treatment of lipodystrophy. You can learn more at www.GLAD.org/TLC
There are laws in other states requiring disclosure or criminalizing the transmission of HIV. These laws were passed decades ago based on stigma and ignorance about the virus. Fortunately, there are no specific statutes in Massachusetts criminalizing the transmission of HIV.
GLAD Answers can help you:
- Understand how to file a complaint if you are discriminated against in your job, a public accommodation, housing, obtaining credit, or at school.
- Understand what it means to ask for a “reasonable accommodation” in your job.
- Understand your rights when it comes to being tested for HIV and having those test results kept private.
For more information about your rights and protections, and for referrals, you can contact GLAD Answers, GLAD’s free & confidential legal information line.