HIV and AIDS and your rights

HIV/AIDS Stigma has a negative impact on those who want or need to test and receive treatment due to the amount of judgement surrounding the illness within communities. As a result, those needing treatment are often afraid to seek HIV services due to the fear of being seen and experiencing discrimination from the community.  Discriminatory views are influenced by many factors, including ignorance about HIV transmission. People living with HIV/AIDS have the same rights as every other person in society and we should ensure that their rights are also protected.

Rights of people living with HIV

  • No person may be tested for HIV infection without his or her consent beforehand.
  • You can consent for an HIV test without parental consent if you are over the age of 12.
  • You are free to make your own decision about whether to be tested or not. You can’t be forced to test.
  • Pre-test counselling should occur before an HIV test is undertaken.
  • Post-test HIV counselling should take place before the person receives their HIV test results.
  • People with HIV and AIDS have the right to confidentiality and privacy about their health and HIV status.
  • Information about a person’s HIV status may not be disclosed to anybody without that person’s fully informed consent.
  • People with HIV/AIDS have the same rights to education, housing, food, social security, medical assistance and welfare as all other members of our society.
  • Medical schemes may not discriminate against any person on the basis of his or her state of health.
  • People have a moral and legal responsibility to tell their sex partners if they are HIV positive and no one has the right to disclose on their behalf.
  • All people have the right to proper education and full information about HIV and AIDS and how to prevent it.

The Right to access healthcare

Every person in South Africa has a constitutional right to access healthcare services as part of the Bill of Rights and should not be discriminated against. Discrimination by the community and by healthcare workers prevents many people from being open and honest when they seek medical help. It also discourages people from seeking and adhering to HIV prevention and treatment services. If a clinic refuses to provide clinical services to you based on your status, you have the right to report it to the clinic Matron, the Department of Health, AIDSLINE as well as the Public Protector.

Confidentiality of HIV results

The results of your test including your identity should remain strictly confidential. If your right to confidentiality has been abused, you can make a claim for damages against the health care worker or the hospital/clinic which abused your rights. You can also lay a criminal charge against the health care worker, or the head of the hospital or clinic employing the worker.

Your HIV status should not determine how you are treated by those in the community. People living with HIV have the same rights as everyone else in society and these rights should be protected at all time. Being HIV positive doesn’t make anyone less worthy than the next person. Remember that people living with HIV can live a full, healthy life by taking their treatment as prescribed and taking care of themselves. I encourage you to share these rights with friends, family and those in your community so that we can eliminate the stigma around HIV/AIDS and eventually achieve an AIDS free generation.

Remember, if you or a friend need someone to talk to, you can speak to me for advice or help here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM or WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).