People with HIV/AIDS need special protection in our society because of the serious social stigma attached to the disease. Many people have lost jobs, been evicted from apartments, been denied life and health insurance, or have experienced other disabling discriminations because they tested positive for HIV or developed AIDS.
These are the four laws that, taken together, provide some protection to people with HIV/AIDS:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act protects all Americans from discrimination on grounds of race, gender, religion, and ethnic background.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Rehabilitation Act extends the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to disable citizens.
Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. The Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination in public and private residential housing based on race, gender, religion, ethnic background and disabled status.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The Americans with Disabilities Act extends the Rehabilitation Act to apply to all public and private businesses with 15 or more employees. It requires removal of all physical and policy barriers to employment, shopping, transportation, entertainment, telephone use and access to public places, including schools and colleges the nation's 43 million disabled citizens, including people with HIV/AIDS. However, the employer may reject a job applicant or dismiss an employee if the employer can prove that the person poses a "direct threat" to the health and safety of others on the job or if the person cannot perform the functions of even when the employer makes "reasonable accommodations".
Laws to protect people with HIV/AIDS against discrimination have not prevented discrimination in all cases. People with AIE continue to be treated unfairly, despite the law. In some instances attorneys have purposely delayed cases so that those who were very sick died before their lawsuits could be settled.
Testing for HIV
Mandatory testing for HIV has been controversial since HIV was discovered in 1985.The Americans with Disabilities Act does permit mandatory testing in civilian employment settings. But the government is allowed to test for HIV in certain programs. These include the military, the Peace Corps, the Diplomatic Service, state National Guard units, and the Job Corps. Any applicant with HIV is rejected for government service, even if that person is still healthy. Active-duty military personnel are tested regularly. If found infected, they are reassigned to limited duty and can be court-martialed if it is determined that they have not complied with strict guidelines to prevent transmission. Confidentiality is often violated.
Some government officials and health care providers want to mandate HIV testing for all pregnant women. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors the AIDS epidemic, suggests that all pregnant women be offered HIV testing. Many hospitals, especially in urban areas, routinely test newborn babies, although test results may not be given to the mothers. Donated body tissues, such as blood, semen, and eggs, and human organs for transplantation are routinely tested in every state.
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