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Living with HIV—and without stigma

We won the nation’s first HIV discrimination lawsuit. And we’ve been fighting ever since for the rights of people living with HIV.


In recent decades, medical breakthroughs and fierce advocacy have transformed the lives of people living with HIV for the better. But too many still face discrimination at income stability, housing, and access to health care. HIV criminalization laws further stigmatize people living with the condition. HIV now is disproportionately affecting communities of color so HIV Justice is Racial Justice.   

Through our HIV Project, we work to combat  stigma, bias, and social determinants to health so that people living with HIV are treated fairly by employers, the government, health care providers, and others.

Cases on HIV.

Lambda Legal client Isaiah Wilkins

Fast Facts


Although Black people account for only 13% of the U.S. population, they make up nearly 40% of those living with HIV. HIV justice is racial justice.


Half of young people ages 13–24 who are living with HIV are unaware of their status


Of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV, close to a third aren’t receiving any care.

Frequently asked questions about HIV

  • PrEP stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” a method of preventing the transmission of HIV. A person who is HIV negative but at higher risk than average for contracting HIV can take two HIV medications (in one tablet) on a regular basis and, by doing so, greatly diminish the chance of acquiring HIV if exposed to the virus.

    You can receive a prescription for PrEP by talking to a health care provider that provides PrEP consultations. Examples of these health care providers include your primary care physician, a community health center, sexual health clinics, or any other nonprofit health clinic. Find a clinic that provides PrEP consultations by visiting

  • No. Your decision to take PrEP is a completely private matter between you and your healthcare provider. There are no laws that require a person to disclose use of PrEP.

  • No, except in a few rare circumstances, it is against the law for someone to fire you or not hire you for being HIV-positive. Usually, an employer cannot even ask you if you’re HIV-positive.

    However, both during the hiring process and once an employee is on the job, an employer may be able to ask medical or disability-related questions so long as they are 1) asked of all employees entering the same job position after making a job offer but before starting work; or 2) are related to the job and consistent with business necessity. For example, an employer may ask questions that are disability-related to either make sure that the employee can do the essential functions of their job (or in other words, the core duties of that position) or make sure that the employee does not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others in the workplace. Still, an employer cannot refuse to hire someone or fire them for being HIV-positive if they are able to perform the essential functions of that job and do not pose a significant risk to others that cannot be managed with reasonable steps.

    Further, if a worker with HIV requests reasonable accommodations because their symptoms require a modification of job duties, the employer may ask disability-related questions while the employer works with the employee to find a reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot legally fire an employee or refuse to hire them because a reasonable accommodation is needed or has been requested.

  • Under federal law employers may not fire or refuse to hire someone with HIV or another disability if the person can perform “essential” functions of the job. This ensures that the person will not be considered unqualified simply because of his or her inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions.

  • Lambda Legal’s HIV Project has used the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and (in the case of Taylor v. Rice) the federal Rehabilitation Act to win policy changes and settlements in a range of cases, including these key victories:

    Matter of Matthew Cusick and Cirque du Soleil: Matthew Cusick, a performer who was fired by Cirque du Soleil for having HIV, won a record cash settlement and forced Cirque to initiate companywide antidiscrimination training and alter its employment policies worldwide concerning people living with HIV.

    Taylor v. Rice: A U.S. State Department employee who was barred from the Foreign Service forced the Department to adopt new hiring guidelines and lift its ban against hiring people with HIV as Foreign Service Officers.

    Hickman v. Donna Curry: A sandwich shop employee who was fired for having HIV received a settlement with terms that include company-wide policy changes.

    Roe v. City of Atlanta: A qualified man who was barred from joining the Atlanta Police Department (APD) because he has HIV lost before the trial court. However, Lambda Legal teamed up with his lawyer and took his case on appeal, got the trial court decision reversed, and secured a sizable settlement and citywide policy changes.

    Harrison v. Austin: The Department of Defense (the world’s largest employer) must allow enlistment of HIV positive individuals

Understanding your HIV rights

Explore our collection of resources to learn more about your rights when it comes to HIV discrimination. Have a specific question that’s not answered below? Visit our Help Desk.