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Healthcare and insurance

telling doctors and dentists

Should you tell dentist, GP or insurer that you are HIV positive? Here are a few things you should consider.

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Telling your GP

It can be sensible to tell your GP that you are HIV positive because, when treating you or prescribing medicines, they need to know about other health issues and medicines you take. This can avoid interactions between drugs prescribed by your GP and your HIV medication.

Doctors cannot refuse to treat you because you have HIV.


Would my GP tell other people about my HIV status?

No, not without permission.

All healthcare professionals, including doctors, legally have to keep your medical records confidential. This applies to non-medical staff such as receptionists. No-one should see your medical records unless they are involved in your treatment and care.

However, it is useful for different doctors treating you to be able to share information, such as a GP and a hospital doctor; but they have to ask your permission to do so.

A doctor may have to reveal medical information about you if forced to by a court or requested by the police, or if they think somebody’s life is at risk. This is very rare.

If you have disclosed your HIV status to your GP, your doctor will probably note it in your medical records. Under the Data Protection Act, you have the right to make a Subject Access Request to enable you to see your records.


Can a dentist refuse to treat me because I have HIV?

It is against the law for dentists to refuse to treat someone with HIV.

There is no risk of HIV transmission during dental treatment if standard sterilisation and hygiene procedures are taken.

If you experience discrimination, you can report it to your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) or the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Each area has its own PALS so if you search online you should be able to find your local branch. If not, ask at your HIV clinic or surgery.


Do I need to tell my dentist about my HIV status?

The benefits of telling your dentist about your HIV status are that they can check for HIV-related gum problems, and ensure that any medicines they use don’t interact with HIV drugs.


When would I need to tell an insurer about my HIV status?

When applying for life insurance or a mortgage requiring it, insurers will ask you and your GP about your HIV status.

If you lie (known as ‘non-disclosure’) the policy will not pay out.

Insurance industry guidelines say you can legally be asked about your HIV status, about whether you have had a sexually transmitted infection in the last five years, whether you have lived or travelled abroad, had blood transfusions or surgery abroad or whether you inject drugs.

More information:

NAM has a booklet you may find useful called HIV, GPs and Other Primary Care.

If you want to make a Subject Access Request under the Data protection Act to see your medical records, find out how to do so here.

To find out more about the Equality Act, an anti-discrimination law which states that healthcare professionals cannot legally refuse to treat you because you have HIV, visit gov.uk.

 

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2 comments

  • It would be useful to have more information about telling insurers.

    I am newly diagnosed with HIV and have had health insurance through my employer for several years. Am I obliged to tell them? Should I tell them? As communications with the insurer generally go via my employer, does that mean I'm outing myself at work?

    Also, regarding dentists, the THT "Your Decision" leaflet I was given has a bit more information than this article.

    It would be very useful if this section went into a little more detail about issues like this.

    Posted 10:54 Sat 29 Jun 2013
  • I would agree with the comment below - I am in a similar situation, I am currently not being treated and have private medical and life insurance policies, what should I be doing?

    Posted 15:46 Mon 27 Apr 2015

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 9/5/2016 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 8/6/2016

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health trainers

More information:

Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010, November 2014, gov.uk

Equality and Human Rights Commission

Health - What are health records?, Information Commissioner's Office

Equality Act 2010 - What do I need to know? - A summary guide to your rights, July 2010, gov.uk

Dental care, October 2012, NAM aidsmap

What insurers can ask you, June 2012, NAM aidsmap

Life insurance, August 2013, NAM aidsmap

Confidentiality, January 2014, NAM aidsmap