Is HIV Considered a Disability?

The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is an infection that attacks the body’s immune system, leaving it vulnerable to AIDS, cancers, and opportunistic fungal and bacterial infections.

Antiretroviral treatments are generally effective in managing HIV symptoms. However, HIV patients often experience adverse side effects—like chronic fatigue, nausea, nerve complications, and anemia—that affect their ability to work.

Is HIV considered a disability? In this guide, our team at Rapid STD Testing discusses whether HIV patients qualify as disability beneficiaries under the Social Security Administration (SSA). We also take an in-depth look at the available financial help and how to apply for disability benefits if you are HIV-positive.

Is HIV Considered a Disability Under Federal Law?

The U.S. government has varying definitions of and qualifications for disability, particularly the divergence between that of the ADA and the SSA.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)  

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, a disability is any condition that significantly impairs a person’s ability to carry out one or more major life activities, including both bodily functions and performing visible tasks.

Following the ADA definition, bodily functions include breathing, walking, talking, hearing, seeing, sleeping, as well as having a well-functioning immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. Examples of the ability to perform visible tasks include working, manual tasks, and proper self-care.

The ADA considers HIV and AIDS as disabilities, even if someone with these medical conditions doesn’t have any symptoms.

This act protects people from discrimination on the basis of disability in the workplace. For example, as someone with HIV, you have the right to request reasonable accommodations.

However, even though an ADA disability may protect your rights in the workplace, it doesn’t automatically make you eligible to receive income from the government.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

To qualify for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits, you must meet the SSA’s qualifications. These requirements differ from ADA definitions and relate to your ability to earn an income.

SSA disability qualification means: “You must not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that is either: (a) expected to result in death, (b) has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”

In these cases, Social Security Disability benefits can provide patients with the steady income they need to cover their medical care and living expenses.

However, suppose you are HIV-positive but with no symptoms and low viral levels. Learn more about HIV viral load. In this case, you have a disability under the ADA but not under the SSA requirements.

SSA Qualifications and Requirements

You might meet SSA Requirements in the following ways.

Through the Medical Requirements

The SSA provides a listing of medical criteria patients need to meet to qualify for SSA benefits in what it calls the Blue Book. The disability listing for HIV appears under this book’s Immune System Disorder section. Consult your doctor to determine if your HIV-related symptoms or health complications meet the SSA disability criteria.

When applying for SSA benefits, you’ll need to demonstrate one of the following conditions:

  • Persistent fungal, viral, parasitic, or bacterial infections
  • A diagnosis of advanced or terminal cancer
  • Brain swelling or brain fluid build-up that affects your cognitive abilities
  • HIV-wasting syndrome, which is a significant weight loss
  • Persistent and uncontrolled diarrhea and the need for a feeding tube or IV fluid administration
  • Regular infections warranting hospitalization or IV therapy
  • Health complications affecting your activities of daily living (ADL)

If your HIV symptoms or health complications don’t meet the requirements, you’ll need to undergo an additional disability review.

You can take our rapid STD test to find out if you have HIV, then take steps to protect your sexual health.

If You Can’t Do Any Work

When asking, “Is HIV considered a disability” the SSA considers the applicant’s ability to work. Under the SSA, individuals with disabilities cannot engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA). These considerations may include:

  • Your health complications resulting from HIV prevent you from earning at least $1260 per month
  • Your medical condition prevents you from working for at least 12 months
  • You are unable to earn substantial gains by changing jobs or earning a new skill

For example, if you’ve always worked in the same job but can no longer work due to HIV, you likely meet these requirements. On the other hand, if you have the ability to retool to another career, you may not qualify for disability benefits.

If You Qualify Without Meeting a Medical Requirement

If you don’t meet the medical requirements under the SSA’s disability, you might still qualify for benefits if:

  • You have complete medical records
  • Your doctor issues a compelling summary statement on your behalf
  • You complete the functional report forms with a convincing argument that you have a disability

This guide to HIV symptoms provides more information on this health condition and the available treatments.

Government Benefits for HIV Patients

HIV patients might be eligible to receive various government benefits. Some of these benefits, such as legal protection, apply automatically. However, patients may need to undergo an application process to take advantage of financial benefits or supplemental income.

Legal Protection

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides civil rights protections to disabled individuals. These statutory requirements ensure that people with disabilities enjoy equal opportunities in the workplace, government services, and transportation facilities.

The ADA protects HIV-positive individuals against discrimination. For example, a doctor who refuses to treat someone with HIV violates this act even if they fear risk of exposure.  

Financial Help for HIV Patients

Medicaid is a prominent program providing people with HIV and AIDS financial support. This program operates at the federal and state level, and some states provide additional and optional benefits, such as prescription medication coverage.

If you are older than 65, you should be eligible for medical coverage by Medicare, a federal health insurance program. This coverage can include a portion of prescription medication, outpatient care, and inpatient hospital care.

The same-day STD testing we offer at Rapid STD Testing provides a discreet solution to find out if you have HIV.

How to Apply for SSA Disability Benefits With HIV

If you have HIV and want to apply for disability status, you can visit the SSA in person or file your application online. This extensive process requires the submission of various documents to demonstrate your disability. If you choose to apply online, you will also need to create a “My Social Security” profile.

The items you might need to submit throughout your application process include:

  • All your personal information, including your place and date of birth
  • The personal information of your spouse and children, if any
  • Identifications documents and details, including your social security number, phone number, and tax forms
  • All paperwork relating to your HIV diagnosis, including laboratory findings
  • Relevant laboratory reports indicating your current state of health
  • Medical reports regarding the impact of your HIV status on your mental and physical health
  • All paperwork relating to medical conditions resulting from your HIV diagnosis—for example, a primary effusion lymphoma or pulmonary Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • A report that outlines your work history over the past decade, including a list of jobs you had, their starting and ending dates, your earnings with each job, and the benefits you received.

After submitting your application, the SSA will evaluate your medical information. This evaluation aims to determine if your symptoms and health complications constitute a disability that affects your ability to earn a sustainable income.

However, if your medical information doesn’t provide conclusive evidence of a disability, the SSA will evaluate your work history, age, education, and experience.

Do your health conditions prevent you from performing a job that fits your training and experience? If so, can you earn substantial gains by doing a different job? If your age and experience limit your employment prospects, the SSA might find that your HIV is a disability, and you are eligible to receive benefits.

The SSA might deny your application for benefits. After receiving notice that the SSA denied your application, you have 60 days to appeal this decision.

In their notice, the SSA will provide reasons for denying your application. When formulating your appeal for reconsideration, you’ll need to address these reasons. Ask your doctor to provide supporting evidence or reports if necessary.

If the SSA denies your appeal for reconsideration, you can escalate the appeal to a hearing before an administrative judge. If this escalation is unsuccessful, you can escalate the appeal to a review before the Appeals Council, then to a review by the Federal Court.

Is HIV a Disability? Final Thoughts

Is HIV considered a disability? In many cases, people can continue working and living normally, thanks to mild symptoms or effective medical treatment.

In these cases, you are disabled under the ADA definition but not according to the SSA disability standards. 

However, if you experience health complications that affect your earning ability, you might meet the SSA disability requirements and receive benefits.

At Rapid STD Testing, we offer safe and discreet testing solutions. With a 10-panel STD test or another testing package, you can determine your HIV status. Order your test kit today or visit a testing center near you.