There was a time when being diagnosed with HIV or AIDS was essentially a life sentence. Very little was known about the illness, and treatments for it were practically non-existent. Things are different today. Not only is there a wide range of antiretrovirals available, as more is learned, it becomes easier to manage and live a full, healthy life even with a positive diagnosis.
And that includes studying for a degree or diploma of any variety. While there are extra considerations that an HIV positive student will need to keep in mind during their time at school – there is absolutely nothing preventing them from furthering their education.Living with HIV as a student
The HIV status of a student is private medical information. Therefore, a student does not have to disclose this information in order to apply to a higher educational institution, register for a class, or participate in any school activities.
There are however some situations in which an HIV positive person has a moral, and sometimes legal, obligation to share their status with another person. This usually refers to an intimate partner but there are some other situations where it may be applicable.Facing discrimination as a student with HIV
Many of those who learn that a student is HIV positive will not treat them any differently than they did before. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that there are those who will. And these individuals may make life incredibly difficult for an HIV positive student if there is any discrimination involved. Depending on the form that their discrimination takes, legal action may be possible and even justified.
Each country is different, but students in the US are encouraged to visit the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). It is the OCR's job to protect students from discrimination based on their disability. And, HIV/AIDS is recognized as a disability under federal law.
Other countries may have slightly different practices, but any information relating to this should be readily available from the relevant Department of Education.Getting medical care when you are an HIV positive student
HIV is not the life-threatening disease it used to be. An effective antiretroviral turns HIV into a chronic disease rather than a terminal one, and a student with HIV can live an otherwise normal life span. However, it is very important to visit a doctor on a regular basis. This is so they can help you monitor your HIV and help you maintain your general health and wellness.
Another thing to keep in mind is your access to medications. Adherence to the course of antiretroviral medications is very strict, and your treatment should never be interrupted. However, ARVs are not always readily available at every pharmacy or medical dispensary. Therefore it is up to the student to ensure that they will always be able to get their medication when they need to.Financial aid for HIV positive students
Higher education is not cheap. Student loans make it possible for many to still get the degree they want, but it can take years before it is paid off. Due to the medical costs an HIV positive student faces, these extra costs can seem even more daunting. However, there are many scholarships and programs designed to help these students manage those costs.
Finding out about these programs may not always be simple, especially if you live outside the US, but contacting your Department of Education is a good place to start. You can also contact HIV/AIDS outreach programs in your area. And if there are any organizations whose focus is specifically children and students with HIV then they will have all the information you could possibly need.
Living with HIV does not mean your life is over, and there are several inspiring stories of long term survivors who have received or who are busy getting a degree of their choice. All it takes is a little extra determination and a dedication to staying healthy, and everything is possible. So go – that dream career is ready and waiting for you!