Fact Sheet: The Law and HIV/AIDS
December 1, 2001
HIV raises many legal-, financial-, and health insurance-related questions for both HIV-positive individuals and their employers. Laws differ in each state. It is important that you consult an attorney in your state or get advice from your local or state AIDS organization.
If your employer offers health insurance to all employees, you will qualify regardless of your HIV status. However, most health insurance policies have a pre-existing condition exclusion for the first 12 months of coverage.
Pre-Existing Conditions and Portability
If you were HIV-positive before your employment began, you must have "insurance portability" to use your benefits right away for HIV-related treatment. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) covers this policy.
If you must leave your job for any reason, and if your company has more than 20 employees, the federal law COBRA allows you to keep your health insurance for 18 months after your job ends. This time period is longer if you become disabled.
Family Medical Leave Act
If you become ill, you are entitled to 12 weeks of protected, unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), provided you have worked for 12 months (and 1,250 hours).
Discrimination In Employment -- Americans with Disabilities Act
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer cannot discriminate against an HIV-positive employee. Also under this act and applicable state laws, your prospective employer cannot ask if you are HIV positive and cannot disclose your HIV status.
Once hired, if the employee requests, an employer must provide "reasonable accommodation" to assist the HIV-positive employee in performing his or her job.
AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)
ADAP is administered by all 50 states; Washington, DC; Puerto Rico; the Virgin Islands; and Guam. It provides medications to HIV-positive individuals who have limited or no coverage from private insurance or Medicaid. For more detailed information on ADAP, go to the ADAP Web site at www.hab.hrsa.gov:80/getting.html.
For more information on all of these federal programs, call the US Department of Health and Human Services Press Office at (202) 690-6343 or visit their Web site at www.dhhs.gov; or visit the Gay Men's Health Crisis Web site at www.gmhc.org.
This article was provided by American Association for World Health. It is a part of the publication I Care ... Do You? Youth and AIDS in the 21st Century.