Protecting the rights of people with HIV-Nurse Joy

People living with HIV, especially Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW), need to be empowered with information and knowledge about their rights. Even though we have the Bill of Rights, which protects the rights of people living with HIV, there are reports that the rights of people living with HIV are still being violated across the world. There are many advocacy groups and organisations fighting and protecting the rights of people living with HIV today.  Here are some of those rights:

The rights of people living with HIV

  • No person can be forced to test for HIV without their consent.
  • Any person living with HIV has the right to medical care and treatment.
  • Any person living with HIV has a right to make decisions about medical treatment.
  • No one is to be denied emergency treatment.
  • Hospitals and doctors can’t refuse treatment due to a person’s HIV status.
  • Children and AGYW infected with HIV have a right to attend any school or institution of higher education and learning. This right is covered in their education rights.
  • Children living with HIV can’t be denied alternative care in Children’s Homes or in foster care families because of their HIV status (per the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005 as amended).
  • People living with HIV have a right to employment. No employer can require that a job applicant have an HIV test before they’re employed.
  • No one is to be denied an opportunity to employment because of their HIV status.  An employee can’t be fired, retrenched or refused a job simply because they’re HIV positive.
  • No one can give out information about a person’s HIV status without their consent and permission.
  • Information about a person’s HIV status can’t be disclosed by anyone and disclosure can’t be forced on anyone.

Women’s reproductive rights

Women have self-determination as far as their reproductive rights are concerned. Any person with HIV has a right to confidentiality.

  • Women with HIV have a right to make choices about their pregnancy.
  • A woman can’t be forced to terminate her pregnancy because she’s HIV positive.
  • A woman can’t be forced to sterilise because she’s HIV positive.

Support groups

Anyone attending support groups has the right to be protected by a confidentiality clause.  All participants must understand that confidentiality means not sharing outside of the group information, what participants share about themselves during the sessions. Information shared by participants remains private. The only time it might be necessary to share private information, is if a participant needs a referral to someone else for help or when the facilitator needs to help a participant and asks for support from their supervisor. In such cases, they need to get the participant’s consent first and it should be agreed that confidentiality will be respected.

People living with HIV have a right to live their lives with respect, dignity and freedom from discrimination and blame. Nobody has the right to insult or damage any person’s self-respect through words or actions, just because they’re living with HIV. We need to protect the rights of people living with HIV and play a role in promoting their rights. Whenever we see a violation of these rights, we must be vocal and advocate for their rights. If you have any questions about HIV /AIDS, you can call this 24 hours tollfree AIDS Helpline at 0800 12 322. 

About the author: Nurse Joy is a Social Worker who has facilitated numerous HIV/AIDS programmes.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).