You don’t have to tell your GP or dentist that you have HIV; however, it may be useful for them to know. If they do, they can take your HIV status into consideration when diagnosing any illness or problem you have. They will also be able to ensure that they don’t prescribe you any drugs that interact with HIV drugs that you may be taking.

Another reason you may want, or even need, to tell your GP that you have HIV is that increasing financial constraints are being placed on HIV services. This is resulting in more and more patients being referred to their GPs for any medication they may need because of HIV other than actual anti-HIV drugs themselves. This can include sleeping pills, painkillers, anti-depressants and drugs to treat other common conditions associated with HIV. This move is in some cases forcing people living with HIV to tell their GPs so they can access these types of medication, and this could become even more common.

It is illegal for a GP or dentist to refuse you treatment because you have HIV, but it can happen. Some claim that they are ‘protecting themselves and their patients from HIV’, however, the standard sterilisation and infection control procedures they follow mean that they are not at risk of getting HIV or passing on HIV by treating you.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against by your GP or dentist then you shouldn’t have to put up with it and you can always change to another. Speak to your doctor or a health adviser at your clinic and explain the problems you are having. They should be able to advise you what to do, and also advise you about the NHS complaints procedure if you feel you need to make a complaint about the behaviour of your GP or dentist.

Your medical records held by your GP are confidential. However, if you apply for life insurance, or a mortgage that requires life cover, then most companies will ask you for access to your medical records which, if granted, means that your GP will be obliged to answer questions about your health from your records which would otherwise be confidential. However, there are professional guidelines on what can be asked. For example, they shouldn’t be able to ask about your sexuality as it has no bearing on your health, but they would be able to ask about your HIV status. If you do not give permission for the insurance company to access your medical records, insurance may be declined, they may ask you to have a medical examination by their own GP or they may decide to increase your insurance premiums.

There are some situations where prospective employers may also want access to your medical records. Remember though that under the Equality Act 2010 it is illegal for potential employers to refuse you a job because of your HIV status [1] although unfortunately this can still happen. 

You can read more about insurance cover and also your rights at work in the section on Work, Money and Benefits.

"When I was diagnosed with HIV, the doctor also discovered I had a heart murmur. To protect my heart from possible infection, he advised me that if I required any kind of treatment that would cause bleeding, such as having a tooth out, I would require prophylaxis before, during and after treatment. That was a good reason for me to reveal my HIV status and my heart murmur to my GP and dentist so that I can get the proper care." (Martin, 39)

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