U.S. civil lawsuits: HIV and your rights (FAQ)

Your HIV status is an issue which may come up in civil lawsuits. Unlike criminal cases, in civil cases, you are not being charged with a crime and cannot go to jail. Instead, you are being sued, or are suing someone, for some sort of harm. Guilty parties in civil lawsuits usually have to pay money damages, but they may also be required to undergo training and stop the behavior that led to the lawsuit.

Can a sexual partner sue me if I do not disclose my HIV status?

Yes. HIV-positive persons should inform potential sexual or needle-sharing partners of their HIV status. If you have HIV and you do not inform your sexual or needle-sharing partner, s/he may have grounds to file a lawsuit against you. Even if you do not transmit HIV to your partners, they may sue you for placing them at risk. If you have protected sex, it will be more much more difficult for a sexual partner to sue you.

Can I sue someone for disclosing my HIV status or HIV test results without my consent?

Yes. Disclosure without your consent may violate your rights to privacy, HIV confidentiality, and patient health care record confidentiality.

Can I sue someone for discriminating against me because I am HIV-positive?

Yes. HIV is considered a disability under several civil rights laws. If you are denied housing, medical or dental care, or service at a place of business based on your HIV status, your civil rights may be violated. If you are harassed at work or if an employer denies you a job, decreases your benefits, fires you or fails to promote you because you are HIV-positive, you also may have grounds to sue for discrimination.

Can I sue my health care provider if I believe s/he exposed me to HIV?

Yes. You may be able to sue depending on the circumstances.

Can a court order HIV testing of individuals?

Yes. When HIV or AIDS is an issue in a legal dispute, the judge has the power to order an individual who is a party to the lawsuit to undergo an HIV test. This may apply in a civil or criminal case.

Can Information about my HIV status be kept confidential if I go to court?

If your HIV status is revealed in court, the information you disclose will be made part of the court record, which is a public document. But you may have your attorney ask the judge to “seal” the information in the case that would identify you as HIV-positive, and thus keep your HIV status private from the record. This applies in civil and criminal cases.

See also…

Healthcare Law – Forum

Civil Litigation – Forum