Your rights


Generally you do not have to tell people you have HIV however there are limited exceptions to this rule:

Personal relationships

In some states public health law says you must tell prospective sexual partners that you have HIV before you have sex unless you take reasonable precautions to prevent transmission (for example, using condoms). In Tasmania, the law states you must tell people you have HIV before you have sex or use injecting drugs with them regardless of whether you make efforts to prevent HIV transmission.

There have been a small number of criminal prosecutions for HIV exposure or transmission. It is difficult to generalise about these cases but it is important to note that all have relied on the fact that the person with HIV did not disclose their HIV-positive status before sex. There have been no criminal prosecutions where a condom has been used during sex, whether or not the person with HIV disclosed their status.

For more information on laws relating to disclosure see AFAO’s Gay Men & HIV Disclosure.


You are not required to disclose your HIV status in most work environments although there are a few exceptions. Doctors, nurses and dentists who perform exposure prone procedures are required to know and disclose their HIV status. Everyone who applies to join the Australian Defence Force is tested for HIV, and if found to be HIV positive, will not be allowed to join. The Australian Defence Force also regularly undertakes HIV testing of its personnel. In some states, it is illegal to work as a sex worker if infected with HIV (or other STIs) even if you only practise safe sex and/or have an undetectable viral load.

“It was part of the process, having to learn about who and where to disclose.”


Discrimination on the basis of HIV status is unlawful across Australia. Laws cover people with HIV, people believed to have HIV, and people who associate with people with HIV. Although these laws do not extend into personal life, they do cover the areas of work, accommodation, education, access to premises, clubs and sport and the provision of goods, facilities, services and land.

If you believe you have experienced discrimination based on your HIV status, contact your local HIV organisation. You could talk through your experience and discuss whether you should contact an anti- discrimination agency.


You have a legal obligation to disclose all relevant information when applying for insurance. If you decide to take out a new insurance policy such as life insurance, income protection, or death and disability insurance, you will need to disclose your HIV-positive status. If you don’t disclose your HIV status, the insurance company won’t pay out when you make a claim. When you disclose your HIV status, some companies may refuse to insure you while others will charge higher premiums. As HIV treatments have improved, the range of insurance options has also improved, so it is worth shopping around to find the best deal.

You do not need to disclose your HIV status to your superannuation fund, however, if you become ill or experience serious financial hardship, you may be able to access some or all of your superannuation early. This will normally require disclosure of your HIV status and other health information. If you intend to access your superannuation early it is important you seek independent advice as your application must satisfy very strict criteria (See Support Agencies).

Superannuation funds often include a ‘default’ insurance cover, which means you are automatically insured unless you opt out. This can be a good option for people with HIV as it does not require any disclosure unless you want to make a claim.


The Department of Immigration requires anyone applying for permanent residency to provide the results of an HIV test.

Donating blood

The law states that people with HIV cannot donate blood, semen, ova or other body tissue.

The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre has developed a series of booklets on HIV and the law.

Overseas travel

For many people with HIV, travel is a regular part of life, whether for work, study or pleasure. In most cases, HIV is not a barrier to travel and holidays. To avoid problems, it is usually best not to disclose your HIV status unnecessarily — not to other travellers, to customs or immigration officials or to work colleagues. HIV continues to be heavily stigmatised in many countries, and frankly, your HIV status is not their business.

Some countries continue to restrict entry and residence of foreigners who are HIV positive, however, many do not. Recently there have been some major improvements to international travel restrictions including those in 2010, when the US removed its entry restrictions for people with HIV and China removed restrictions for people with HIV on short term stays.

Although laws prohibiting entry of people with HIV are clearly discriminatory and frequently lack any rational basis, it is important to understand visa requirements before travelling. The Global Database on HIV-specific Travel and Residence Restrictions website provides up to date information for all countries in the world. Those planning a holiday can refer to the ‘Entry’ section. Those planning a longer stay may need to refer to the ‘Residence’ section. If you remain uncertain about your legal rights, it may be useful to contact the country’s embassy to ask them directly.

Treatment while travelling

In most cases, bringing (importing) HIV medicine for your personal use will not pose a problem but if you are worried, you may want to check each country’s specific customs regulations by ringing their embassy before you go. If you are using a drug substitution treatment (such as methadone or buprenorphine) you should definitely check country regulations as some countries consider substitution treatment to be illicit drug use.

When travelling, keep your medication in its original packaging (labelled with your name) and also your doctor’s prescription (to show the medication was prescribed) but ensure the prescription does not mention HIV.

It is usually best to carry your medication in your hand luggage as checked luggage can be lost or delayed. It is also useful to take some extra medication with you in case your return is delayed for some reason. Looking for prescription medicine in another country can be time consuming and expensive, and your medication may not be available.

Many people take their treatment at the same time every day which can be tricky when crossing time zones. If you are on a complicated schedule or if you are concerned about managing the time change, ask for advice from your doctor. If you are concerned about how your health will be while travelling, you may want to find out where the local HIV clinic is or get the address of a specialist physician before you travel.

For more information on laws relating to disclosure see AFAO’s Gay Men & HIV Disclosure.

The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre has developed a series of booklets on HIV and the law.