Category: Learn

HIV FAQs

Why test for HIV? 

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. When someone becomes infected with HIV, and it is left untreated, the virus weak- ens and damages their body’s defence system (the immune system) so that it cannot fight off infections. 

Once someone is infected with HIV the virus will remain in their body for the rest of their life. There is currently no cure for HIV and no vaccine to prevent people from becoming infected. Howev- er, drug treatments can help most people with HIV to live much longer, feel well and lead healthy lives including sexual health and relationships. 

HIV is now a long term manageable medical condition and it is important to diagnose this condition as early as possible for the best outcomes on treatment. 

How is HIV passed on? 

HIV can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact, and in a number of other ways. Both men and women can have HIV, and can pass it on. You don’t need to have lots of sexual partners to get HIV or to pass it on. 

HIV can be passed on through sexual activity with someone of your same gender or of a different gender, irrespective of one’s sexual orientation. Individuals with female bodies who have sex with others who also have female bodies, have a lower risk of con- tracting HIV. 

Most people with HIV will look and feel healthy, so you cannot tell who has the virus and you can pass on HIV without know- ing you have it. 

HIV is passed from one person to another when the blood, semen, pre-ejaculate (precum), vaginal fluids or breast milk of an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person by: 

Having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Sharing sex toys.
Using a needle or syringe (works) which has already been used by someone who is infected with HIV.
A woman with HIV can pass the virus to her baby before or during birth, or by breastfeeding.
The risk of catching HIV from unprotected oral sex is low but it can happen.

Groups most at risk of HIV are: 

Men who have sex with other men
Anyone who has multiple sex partners
Sex Workers and their clients
Injecting drug users
Anyone who exchanges sex for drugs or money
Anyone who has a sexually transmitted disease
Spouses and sexual partners of individuals with high- er-risk behaviour 

If you are HIV positive starting treatment as early as possible is essential. This will also reduce the virus levels in the body and once the viral load is undetectable also makes it less likely that the infected person will pass on the virus to others. 

You can only be certain you have HIV if you have a test. 

An HIV test checks your blood for antibodies to HIV. When HIV enters your body, your immune system tries to fight off the infec- tion by producing antibodies to the virus. It can take between three weeks and three months after you have been infected with HIV for there to be enough antibodies in your blood to show up on an HIV test. Newer types of HIV tests look for part of the HIV virus as well and can detect the virus within a shorter period. 

What does the test involve? 

The HIV test involves taking a sample of blood (either from your arm or from a finger prick) and looking for HIV antibodies, or anti- bodies and antigen. 

What do the test results mean? 

If the result is HIV negative this means that no HIV antibodies or p24 antigen were found in your blood. If the test has been done at least three months after the time of your possible risk of infection, then you do not have HIV. If it was less than three months since the last time you could have been exposed to HIV, the test will be repeated at a later appointment. 

If the result is HIV positive this means that the test has detected HIV antibodies or p24 antigen in your blood. The test will be repeated to confirm the positive result. If both tests are positive this means you have HIV. 

Where can I get a test? 

You can get an HIV test (free) at the GU clinic in Mater Dei hospital. The service is easy and confidential. Appointments can be made by calling the clinic on +356 21227981. You can also get tested at other private run GU clinics in Malta against payment. 

It is important to be tested also for other SAI (sexually acquired infections) at the same time. 

If you test positive for HIV or any SAI you will be offered free treat- ment and free counselling. 

A free counselling service is also provided by MGRM’s Rainbow Support Service. 

If you test negative it is a good practice to keep testing regularly in the future. 

Recently it is also possible to obtain or purchase Home Testing HIV kits, which give the option of testing for HIV at home. It is impor- tant that such kits are obtained from a reputable source and bear the C E quality mark. 

Support Services and Resources 

Rainbow Support Services: 

RSS provide free support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, intersex and questioning individuals, their family and friends. They can be contacted on +356 7943 0006 or email: support@maltagayrights.org 

National LGBTIQ Helpline:

If at any time you require support or you feel like you would like to express your thoughts freely to a person who will understand you, you may also call the National Gay Helpline, run by MGRM on tel: +356 21430006 / +356 99255559 

Sexual Health: 

The Sexual Health website is the Health Department’s site cover- ing information on Sexual Health including contraception and SAIs. There is also an LGBTI section. 

Mater Dei Hospital: 

The GU Clinic offers free anonymous SAI testing. The clinic is at Mater Dei Hospital, outpatients department Level 2. It is recommended that one phones on +356 21227981 to set an appointment. 

Download the FAQs

Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act

What are my rights under the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act ? (GIGESC) 

This Act gives all Maltese citizens the right to: 

Live according to their gender identity and
Be treated and identified according to that gender. Particularly citizens have the right to change the gender on official documents and records. 

Any Maltese citizen, unless adopted, who is over 18 years of age, can change their gender on official documents by make a declara- tion before a notary, to this effect. A birth certificate needs to be presented to the notary. 

No. No medical or psychological intervention and or treatment is required to change gender identity officially. Neither doctors nor notaries nor any government official may require you to undergo medical treatment or intervention of any type as a pre-requisite to allowing you to change gender. In fact this is against the law. 

No, you do not have to divorce to change gender. 

Can minors change their gender identity? 

Yes, they can. However the parents need to file an application to this end before the courts. The courts will consider the child’s best interests in deciding. 

As a refugee, can I change my gender identity? 

Yes, persons having protection under the Refugees Act may make a declaration of the gender they identify with, before the Commissioner of Refugees. Their asylum application and protection certificate then have to be amended by the state within 15 days of making the declaration. 

What if I am adopted? 

Adopted persons need to apply to the courts requesting a change in gender and name. Once the decree is issued, the Court Regis- trar shall see that the amendment is communicated to the Direc- tor of Public Registry within 15 days. 

Yes, as long as the change was done in a country and by courts or authorities which Malta recognizes as competent. 

What is the procedure for changing one’s gender and first name on official documents? 

The procedure is as follows: 

You make a declaration before a Notary Public in Malta that the gender identity you were born with and which appears on your birth certificate is not the gender identity you identify with. 

The Notary will ask to see your current Identity Card to identify you as the state currently recognizes you. You will be asked identifying details such as your full name, parents’ names, occupation and marital status. 

You should take your full birth certificate with you to the Notary. The full birth certificate costs around €5 and may be obtained from the Public Registry. Ask for the full certificate not an extract thereof. 

It is important to tell the notary if you are married, or in a civil union or have children, so that the necessary changes may be made on your marriage certificate, civil union certificate and children’s birth certificates. 

The Notary will ask you if you also want to change your name and if you say yes, the Notary will write that from the effective date of change your name shall be….. 

The contract before the notary will declare that your gender assigned at birth is not the gender you identify with, that you want to change your birth certificate as well as other official documents and / or your first name. On the contract, the notary will ask the Public Registry to make these changes. 

The Notary then signs the contract and sends it for enrolment in the public registry. Upon enrolment the contract becomes a public deed and effectively the changes are recognized from this date onwards. Always ask your notary to give you an authenticated copy of your contract. 

The public Registry then has 15 days from the date of enrolment of the deed to change your documents. 

The whole process should not take longer than a month, obviously depending on how long your notary takes to send your contract to the public registry. Therefore you need to follow up with your notary. 

After 15 days lapse from the day your contract was enrolled at the Public Registry you may collect your documents in person from the Registry. You will not receive any notification from the Public Registry that the changes have been made. You will need to follow up and collect the new certificate/s in person. The extract of the birth certificate will give your new name and gender. If you require a copy of the full birth certificate, you need to specifically ask for it not to include any annotations. 

Once the changes have been effected by the Public Registry you may change your ID card and/or passport too. However you need to wait an additional two days, after the 15 days, for systems to be updated, before you go to the passport/ID office. 

The Public Registry notifies the Civil Status Section of changes made to your gender and or name. You need not notify them your- self in order to change your ID and/or passport. However you should always take with you your change of gender identity con- tract showing the date of enrolment in the public registry and the date, so that if the Civil Status Section has not yet been notified, the Section may verify the changes against your contract. You should also take with you your current ID. You will receive your new ID through the postman who will also collect your previous ID. 

Once your birth certificate is changed for all intents and purposes 

you should be treated as though you have always had the new identity. 

What happens to records concerning me, held by the civil service? 

The central database system which is accessed by various depart- ments will be automatically, amended to show your new gender and / or name. However, for some departments and government agencies the change is not automatic so you have to notify them of changes. E.g. the ETC has its own database so you will need to notify it whereas hospital and social security records will be auto- matically amended. 

Is it possible to change gender more than once? 

The first time you change your gender on official documents, you may do so by making a simple declaration of the gender of choice, before a notary. You should always tell your notary if you are changing gender identifier for the first time. Should you wish to make another change in the future, you would not be able to avail yourself of this simplified procedure and you would have to resort to the Courts. 

How much will the procedure cost? 

Approximately €100 taking into account the costs of copies, enrol- ment of the deed and notary’s fees. Adopted persons also need to pay court and legal fees. 

What if I do not identify with any particular gender? 

There is work underway to introduce an X identifier that would denote undisclosed/undetermined gender. This should become available as of January 2016. 

Can I change gender identity on my qualification certificates? 

Yes, for qualifications awarded by a Maltese institution. There is no guarantee for certificates issued by foreign institutions but you can always ask. 

Can I also change my surname? 

Currently, this is not possible. However work is underway to make this legally possible in the future for everyone not just LGBTIQ persons. 

Isn’t this procedure open to fraudulent use? 

No. Your birth certificate will have annotations on it that a public deed was enrolled so that any notary doing searches will know where to look and under which names, so that e.g. a person does not change name to escape financial and legal liabilities. Notaries may cross refer names but the act of having changed gender is only known to notaries doing searches who may search under both the old and new name. 

A notary public in Malta is a public officer and therefore bound by confidentiality under the Professional Secrets Act. A notary cannot divulge your personal information. Furthermore, anyone who exposes you as having changed gender identity on your docu- ments is liable to a fine between €1,000 and €5,000. In addition, you are protected under data protection laws in force. 

What happens if I am taken to hospital during an emergency? 

The national health department is working on new systems to make sure your old medical history is always available and tracea- ble to ensure that you receive good medical care. Changing gender identifier does not automatically mean you change your biological make up. Therefore for example if biological males are called in for screening against certain types of cancer, as a biologi- cal male, you will be called to attend as well. However, the hospital and other medical departments have a duty to call you by your chosen name and address you using the correct pronouns in accordance with your new gender identity. 

Currently there is no system to record these. However, it is in your best interests to disclose your medical history to your doctor. Your doctor is bound by confidentiality. 

Download the FAQs

Civil Unions FAQs

Who is eligible to enter into a civil union? 

Any person who is: 

Over 18 years of age or with parental consent if aged between 16-17;
Single/divorced/ widowed or had a previous marriage or civil union annulled and 

Meets the eligibility criteria of the Marriage Act (e.g. regarding consent to the union). 

Persons who are legally separated but not divorced or had their previous marriage annulled are only eligible to enter a civil union when they obtain a divorce or annulment of the previous mar- riage. Civil Unions are available for same-sex partners as well as different sex partners. 

Effects of a Civil Union 

A civil union, once registered has the corresponding effects and consequences at law of a civil marriage. The Civil Code provisions on personal separation and on divorce apply to civil unions. 

Parenting Rights 

Same-sex couples who enter into a civil union are eligible to adopt children just like a different sex couple who enters into a civil marriage. A child born to a couple in a civil union is automatically registered as the child of that couple on the birth certificate. A non-biological parent of a child can also request second parent adoption if the child only has one registered parent. 

Entering a civil union with an ulterior motive 

Amongst the articles of the Marriage Act that apply to civil unions, Article 38 provides that:
“Any person who contracts a marriage with the sole purpose of obtaining: 

Maltese citizenship; or
freedom of movement in Malta; or
a work or residence permit in Malta; or the right to enter Malta; or
the right to obtain medical care in Malta, 

shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years” 

Any right or benefit obtained on the basis of such a union may upon conviction, be rescinded or annulled. The person entering a civil union with another person, knowing that the sole purpose of such other person in entering a civil union is one or more of the above, is also guilty of an offence and liable to the same punishment. 

How do I get started? 

For Maltese residents wishing to enter a civil union in Malta, the first step is to contact the Marriage Registry on telephone number (+356) 25904212-7 or the Gozo Public Registry on telephone number(+356) 22156381 for ceremonies taking place in Gozo. 

What documents do I need? 

Applications are to be made between 3 months and 6 weeks prior to the date of the civil union. The documents you will need depend on whether you were born in Malta or are an EU or non-EU citizen. Generally the following are required: 

Presentation of original and photocopies of ID Card/Passport of partners and the required two witnesses
Presentation of original and photocopy of any Resident’s Registration Certificate 

Original, full birth/adoption certificate
For non-Maltese citizens original free status certificate or in default thereof an affidavit both valid for 3 months, by a person who knows the non-Maltese citizen well and is over 18 years of age, who before a legal professional confirms that: 

the non-Maltese partner has never been married or contracted a civil union or union of an equivalent status or if widowed, not married or contracted a civil union since the death of the former spouse/ partner or
If they underwent divorce/annulment proceedings have not entered into a civil union or union of equivalent status. 

Original, previous, marriage/civil union certificate unless the previous marriage or civil union were already registered at the Malta Public Registry and a copy of the previous marriage/civil union divorce 

Original Death certificate of late spouse/partner 

What documents does a Maltese citizen require? 

Maltese citizens need to present their ID cards and photocopies of the ID cards of the witnesses. Partners who were previously mar- ried or in a civil union overseas should provide a copy of the previ- ous marriage or civil union certificate and a copy of the divorce decree if it was not registered at the Public Registry in Malta. 

What is the procedure for entering into a civil union? 

If you reside abroad please contact the Marriage Registry on telephone number: (+356) 25904212-7 or e-mail: pubreg.marriage@gov.mt for further information. 

You may send your application and documents by post by the six week closing date before the date of the civil union. 

How long does the process take? 

The minimum requirement is to wait for 6 weeks from the date of submission of the application so that the civil union banns are published at the Marriage Registry and are also published in the locality of residence of both parties for 8 working days (excluding Saturdays and Sundays.) The Registrar then has to wait for an additional 6 days to allow objections to the banns. Where there are no objections the Registrar issues a certificate of civil union banns. 

Translation of documents 

When documents are not in either English or Maltese, they have to be translated by a legal translator and duly apostilled (authenti- cated) by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where the translation is made. 

There is no minimum residency requirement but you are required to attend a meeting with the registrar at least three days prior to the date of the civil union for confirmation of identity of the part- ners and witnesses, vetting of the civil union contract and settle- ment of fees. 

The Registrar authorises a Marriage Registry official to officiate the ceremony. You may request a preferred officiant. Alternatively a mayor of a local council may officiate but only for the locality he/she represents. Mayors are not obliged to accept to officiate a civil union or to be available on the date requested. When they refuse or are not available the ceremony is officiated by a Registry official. 

Acceptable venues are: The marriage Registry in Valletta, wedding halls, hotels, restaurants, public gardens, palaces, local councils. Venues are considered on a case by case basis. Poolside areas or public beaches are not acceptable. 

Registration of Marriage/Civil Unions entered into overseas 

Maltese citizens may register their marriage/civil union/union of equivalent status in Malta upon presentation of a legalized Act of civil status authenticated by the competent authority of the coun- try of issuance or a similarly authenticated true copy. Also required are a declaration attesting the surname adopted after marriage or civil union and a letter issued by the Department of Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs addressed to the Director of the Public Registry confirming that the person is a citizen of Malta. 

Fees 

Currently the fees range from €25.65 where both partners are resident in Malta and the ceremony is held in Malta to €102.60 where both partners are resident abroad and the ceremony is held at a place other than the Marriage Registry. As fees are subject to change, it is recommended that you enquire about current fees with the Marriage Registry in Malta. 

Further Information 

You may download the Civil Unions Act (Chapter 530 of the Laws of Malta) and The Marriage Act (Chapter 255 of the Laws of Malta) at: www.justiceservices.gov.mt 

Download the Civil Unions FAQs