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the rights of people living with hiv & aids

The Rights Of People Living With HIV & AIDS

Living with HIV and AIDS is not a death sentence, and it’s important to know the rights of people living with HIV & AIDS. Having the disease doesn’t change your value as a human being. 

You are entitled to all the basic human rights as everyone else. There are rights specific to those who live with HIV and AIDS too. 

People infected with HIV faced discrimination before we had wide access to information about the disease. In 2018, 7 700 000 people were living with HIV in South Africa. 


What Is HIV and AIDS?


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that attacks the immune system. It’s spread through contact with somebody else’s bodily fluids.

South Africa has one of the highest global HIV infection rates. You can get tested at any government clinic around SA. 

Knowing your status can help you live a long, healthy life. 

The virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. It’s essential that you always use protection when engaging in sexual activity. A condom is the most effective method of precaution. 

However, it can also be passed in many other ways:

  • From mother to child during pregnancy, 
  • During childbirth,
  • While breastfeeding,
  • Through blood transfusion,
  • Or by sharing needles.

You have the right to refuse testing in any situation. HIV testing for any reason must be fully consensual.


What Does The Law Say?


The South African Constitution and Bill of Rights protects all people, regardless of HIV status. 

It states as follows:

  • Everyone has the right to human dignity. Your dignity is protected by law. A person or institution may not insult or damage any person’s self-respect by their words or action. 
  • Like everyone else, you also have the same right to basic or adult education. A learning institution cannot refuse to educate you or your child because of your HIV or Aids status. The Western Cape Education Department provides learners, educators and parents guidelines concerning HIV/AIDS.


The constitution covers your right to medical treatment, your right to disclose your status at your discretion, your right to a healthy pregnancy and more. 

Everyone has the right to privacy. Your employer, hospital or your doctor cannot force you to tell them your status. They also can’t force you to have an HIV test.

No one living with HIV should face discrimination at home, school, work, clinics or anywhere else, says Choma

You can’t be fired, suspended or refused employment because of HIV-positive status. You also have the right to education. No one can expel you from school or refuse to teach you because of your status.


Medical Treatment 


People with HIV and AIDS may make their own decisions about medical treatment. 

Medical facilities may not refuse to offer you emergency treatment based on your status. That is discrimination. 




If you are HIV positive, you have the right to decide about the medical treatment you receive during your pregnancy. 

You have the right to an abortion or to choose to carry your pregnancy to term. 


Employment and Housing


People with HIV or Aids can work in any industry they choose. 

They have the right to access adequate housing and may not be refused access to a subsidy or home loan. It is illegal to evict a tenant because of their status. 


More Rights That You Have As Someone With HIV or AIDs


  • The right to a disability grant.
  • The right to freedom of expression. This includes the freedom to receive or give out information or ideas. This right is important as a way to ensure that the correct information about preventing HIV is available in schools or prisons.
  • Freedom of association. You have a right to join any organisation or group. 
  • You have the right to live anywhere in the country. You also have the right to move around the country.
  • You have the right to fair labour practices. 
  • Everyone has the right to live in an environment that is not harmful to their well-being or health.


Affinity Health offers you access to quality and affordable healthcare. 


Should You Get Tested?

Anyone between 13 to 64 years old should test at least once a year for routine health check-ups.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that regular testing can rule out the possibility of infection if you are sexually active.

The following higher-risk categories should get tested for HIV more than once a year:

  • Those who work in the sex trade 
  • Exchange sex for drugs or money
  • People with multiple sexual partners 
  • People who have unprotected sex with a partner who has HIV
  • Anyone sharing needles, syringes or other injection equipment to inject drugs
  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with specific conditions such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and all sexually transmitted infections.


Most importantly, all pregnant women must be tested as part of pregnancy care. 

If you test positive, treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) starts immediately to protect your unborn baby from infection. 

The sooner a woman starts on ART, the lower the risk of transmitting HIV to her baby. 


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