The Human Rights Act protects those who have AIDS or HIV infection from discrimination. It is unlawful to discriminate against those with an organism in the body capable of causing illness, including those who are HIV positive or who have AIDS. Protection also exists for those who are assumed to be HIV positive or to have AIDS.
Misconceptions about AIDS have resulted in discrimination against particular groups such as homosexual men and intravenous drug users. The intention of the Act is to ensure that people with a range of disabilities , including physical illness, are treated fairly.
The HIV virus that causes AIDS is not an easy virus to pass on. It is transmitted in the following ways: sexual contact (mainly unprotected anal and vaginal intercourse); exchange of blood, such as in the sharing of needles and syringes by intraveneous drug users; or from mother to baby during pregnancy. HIV is not transmitted by casual contact, such as sneezing, handshaking, and the sharing of eating and toilet facilities.
The Human Rights Act protects those with AIDS and HIV infection in the following areas: employment; accomodation; access to public places; provision of goods and services; education facilities.
Employers cannot dismiss someone or refuse to employ someone who is infected or believed to be infected with HIV.
No job applicant or employee is obliged to disclose to their employer that they have AIDS or HIV unless there is a risk to the safety of others.
A person cannot be evicted from a property on the basis of infection or believed infection with HIV.
Real estate agents and landlords cannot refuse to rent a property to someone infected or believed to be infected with HIV.
Students cannot be excluded from a school or other educational institution on the grounds of HIV infection or assumed infection.
Doctors, dentists or hospitals cannot refuse to treat a person who is believed to have HIV infection.
Shops, businesses, restaurants and other providers of services to the public cannot refuse to provide their services to people who are infected with HIV.
There are certain circumstances in which it is not unlawful to discriminate. These include:
Those who believe they have experienced discrimination on the basis of AIDS or HIV infection can ask for assistance from the Human Rights Commission. If the Commission considers that the complaint falls within the law, it will be investigated by Commission staff. If there is substance to the complaint, Commission officers will try to settle the matter. If agreement is not reached, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Complaints Review Tribunal for a hearing.
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