Back to contents

Your rights in health care

Everybody living with HIV should go to a specialist HIV clinic to get the best possible treatment and care. It’s also important to be registered with a GP and a dentist. From time to time, you might have to see other health specialists.

Sometimes people who are living with HIV have reported that they experience difficulties in some healthcare settings. But there are similar rules and codes of ethics in all healthcare services and in all parts of the NHS, and everyone should be treated with respect whether you are at the HIV clinic, other hospital service, GP or dentist.

Under the Equality Act, it is illegal to discriminate against people living with HIV in health care – this means that you should not be refused a service or receive a less favourable service because you have HIV. Also, healthcare professionals work to codes of ethics to make sure that their personal prejudices don’t interfere in the kind of treatment they offer to patients.

“I have known my dentist for a long, long time and I found it difficult to tell her. I thought she would have thought less of me and then eventually I just says, ‘Look I’ve got something that I have to tell you’ and she never batted an eyelid.  She says ‘Well, how are you doing?’”

There are strict rules about the confidentiality of medical information and management of medical records. Although it’s normal for healthcare workers who are treating you to have access to your medical records (which may mention your HIV status), this information should not be shared with others. For example, you must give permission before your doctor can provide medical information about you to any third party, such as an insurance company or an employer.

To find out more about confidentiality, visit our topics page, or read the NAT booklet Confidentiality in the NHS: your information, your rights.

If you have moved to the UK from another country, you may have questions over your entitlement to access free NHS care. The rules covering this are complex, so it’s important to get specialist advice. Good places to start would be THT Direct (0808 802 1221) or the NAT factsheet Who has to pay?

Some medical procedures involve contact with blood and other body fluids. To avoid infection or onward transmission, healthcare workers should follow ‘universal’ infection control procedures. No extra precautions are required when the healthcare workers know that the person in their care is living with HIV.

Unfortunately, there are occasions when healthcare workers don’t live up to the standards that we expect. Sometimes it’s a simple mistake or oversight, or ignorance, but sadly it can be because a healthcare worker is prejudiced.

“Some nurses they don’t have the knowledge and when it comes to handling HIV it is a mess. They think just touching somebody you can get it.”

If you have tried discussing the problem with the healthcare worker concerned or with a manager and haven’t had a satisfactory response, then you may want to deal with the matter in a more formal way.

In most areas, the NHS has a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) which should help you to sort out the problem or, if necessary, make a complaint. You could also tell an HIV organisation about what you’ve experienced – they may be able to help you make a complaint and offer practical and emotional support.

There are well-established complaint procedures in the NHS. The standard of care you receive should not be affected because you are making a complaint. See Making a complaint for more information.

HIV, stigma & discrimination

Published January 2018

Last reviewed January 2018

Next review January 2021

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this booklet.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.