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HIV - A disability?
Sep 11, 1998

Hello,

My wife and step-son are HIV positive, I am negative. I have been with the same company for almost three years. I was working overseas and now have returned to work with the same company in the US. The company has a different health insurance carrier for US-based employees. On the enrollment form there are no questions related to HIV, however, there is a question that asks: "Is the dependant disabled?'. I answered 'no' but now do not know if that is the truthful response. Could you please advise on how to respond and how that could affect coverage? Thank you very much.

Response from Ms. Breuer

As you know, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiff in Bragdon v. Abbott, an HIV-positive asymptomatic woman, was an individual with a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, the Court did not rule that asymptomatic HIV is, per se, a disability, only that in her case they felt she had proved substantial limitation of a major life activity, there reproduction. The Court did make broad statements about what else might qualify as a major life function, providing hope that many people with asymptomatic HIV are covered even if they never plan to reproduce.

Developing a record with your doctor regarding your physical symptoms may provide persuasive evidence of a disability. However, I hope that you never have to use this information, and that you never suffer discrimination in employment or public accommodations.

Mary Sylla, HALSA



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