Law, stigma and discrimination

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People living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, as HIV remains a highly stigmatised condition. One in three people diagnosed with HIV have experienced HIV-related discrimination at some time.

Although the law does offer some protection from HIV-related discrimination, in some areas current legislation is inadequate to fully protect the rights of people living with HIV.

NAT aims through its work to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV are upheld and the law is framed and implemented to protect and promote the rights of people living with HIV. We do this by educating people such as employers about the rights of people living with HIV and by campaigning for changes to the law.

HIV Positive Healthcare Workers

Since the 1990s if you were living with HIV in the UK you would be unable to perform certain healthcare procedures known as 'exposure prone procedures.' Exposure prone procedures (EPPs) are those practices which involve a healthcare worker operating on a patient where their hands or fingertips may not always be completely visible. Dentists, surgeons and midwives all practice EPPs. People living with HIV were therefore effectively barred from such professions.

In August 2013 the Government decided to lift employment restrictions for healthcare workers living with HIV. These changes will come into effect from April 2014.

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Human rights & discrimination

In the UK until recently there was inadequate recognition in law of multiple discrimination, for example discrimination on the basis both of someone's HIV status and sexuality, or HIV status and race.  NAT therefore welcomes the new Equality Act which, for the first time, recognises in law dual discrimination. The Act also introduces important new provisions prohibiting discrimination by perception and association and outlawing the use of pre-employment health questionnaires.

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Criminal prosecutions

Since 2001, people living with HIV in the UK have been prosecuted for the reckless transmission of HIV.

There are real concerns that these prosecutions are undermining efforts to stop the spread of HIV in the UK and are increasing stigma around HIV.

NAT is campaigning for an end to prosecutions of reckless transmission of HIV through consensual sex. Whilst prosecutions continue, we are working to ensure the best possible guidance is available to prosecutors, lawyers, police, support organisations, healthcare workers and people living with HIV.

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Police Investigations

NAT has worked with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to produce 'ACPO Investigation Guidance relating to the Criminal Transmission of HIV'.  The Guidance aims to end inappropriate police investigations and ensure, when they are considered necessary, that police forces and officers investigate allegations of criminal HIV transmission appropriately.

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Disability Law

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone living with HIV in the workplace.  Yet despite these protections, people living with HIV are still facing discrimination from employers and colleagues and some even lose their jobs because of their HIV status.

NAT commissioned research with City University looking at the employment experiences of people living with HIV.  Our report Working with HIV shows that overall the picture is a positive one, but discrimination does still go on and many people living with HIV are unaware of their employment rights. 

NAT is now working to educate employers about the rights and needs of people living with HIV and to ensure that people living with HIV also know their rights in employment.

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Other legal issues

Some people experience hate crime on the basis of their HIV positive status. However, until recently, disability hate crime protections did not apply to people living with HIV. NAT actively campaigned on this issue and have recently secured a change to the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS’s) guidance to ensure people living with HIV receive the same protection as other disabled people.

NAT has also intervened over recent public health law proposals to protect the rights of people living with HIV and make sure that they are not subjected to unnecessarily coercive measures.

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Stigma

A recent NAT survey revealed that 69% of people feel there is still a great deal of stigma in the UK around HIV. Stigma often occurs within the communities most affected by HIV - - gay and bisexual men and African men and women.

In England, despite the commitment of the national strategy for sexual health and HIV to address HIV stigma and discrimination, there is no cross-departmental action plan to address HIV stigma and no sustained allocated budget to support proven programmes.

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Occupational Health Policies

NAT has recently worked with local and national police authorities to ensure that occupational health policies (OHPs), training materials and information relating to HIV and/or blood borne viruses (BBVs) are accurate, clear and non-discriminatory.

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