In Canada, the federal, provincial and territorial governments have anti-discrimination laws that protect people from harassment and discrimination based on a disability. HIV and Hepatitis C are considered to be disabilities under Canadian anti-discrimination law. What does this mean for people living with HIV or HCV?
Disclosure in the Workplace
- Every employer has a duty to accommodate an employee with a disability. There may be an exception if the employer can prove they have acted in good faith for a purpose connected to the job and that accommodating the employee would cause the employer “undue hardship” (i.e: cost so much money that it would alter the business’ ability to continue operating).
- An employee does not have to disclose their HIV or HCV status to obtain accommodation.
Disclosure as a Patient
- There is currently no legislation obliging patients to tell their doctors, nurses, dentists, surgeons, paramedics or any other health care professional that they are HIV or HCV positive. The professional may ask that question on intake forms and through other means, but it is up to the positive person whether or not they want to disclose their status. Though there is no obligation to disclose under the law, people living with HIV or HCV could consider what is in their best health care interests – it may affect the completeness of the care they receive if the professional doesn’t know all their patient’s medical details.
- If a person does choose to reveal their HIV or HCV positive status, healthcare professionals cannot refuse to examine or treat that person because of their status.
- Healthcare professionals cannot refuse service if a positive person does not reveal their status at the beginning, and later reveals their status.
- Healthcare professionals and facilities have a legal and ethical duty to maintain confidentiality and take precautions to keep health information safe from everyone who does not need to see that information to provide care.
- Generally, healthcare professionals do not need a person’s verbal or written consent to disclose their health information to other healthcare professionals in the patient’s “circle of care” – those people who have a necessary purpose to provide or assist in providing care to that patient (for example, a doctor may inform the nurses that will provide care in a hospital).
Disclosure as a Student
- In most cases, there is no legal obligation to tell a post-secondary institution that you have HIV or HCV. If you choose to disclose your status, that is entirely up to you (there may be a request to disclose if the student is training in certain health professions like medicine or dentistry).
- Post-secondary institutions are obliged to provide accommodation to students who require it because of a disability (being HIV or HCV positive), unless it would cause “undue hardship” to the institution (they must be able to prove it would do so). Accommodations might include being excused from class for doctor’s appointments, time off if there is a problem with medications, etc.
- If a person does choose to share their positive status to a teacher, counselor, staff, dean, mentor or others working in an official capacity, that person must keep this information confidential.
- HIV or HCV positive people do not need to disclose their status to classmates. Those legal obligations to keep a person’s status confidential do not apply to a classmate, peer or other person who is not in an official capacity at the institution.
- People living with HIV or HCV are protected from HIV-related discrimination and harassment at school.