Workplace Issues for HIV+ Employees

Many people with HIV and AIDS continue to be productively employed in the workplace for years, even after their health has become less than perfect. They pose no risk of infection to co-workers, but there are physiological, psychological, legal, and practical concerns with which they must deal.

Several years after infection, the average HIV-positive person will begin to experience recurrent and persistent physical symptoms referred to as AIDS-Related Complex (ARC). The condition should not usually result in loss of job but may require some accomodation by the employer. When, how, and what does that look like?

The opportunistic diseases of the stages of AIDS are numerous, often serious, and even life-threatening. Like other serious chronic illnesses, AIDS may necessitate leaving work. Who decides? Am I prepared?

Through the years, emotional difficulties become commonplace as knowledge of one's HIV status; fear of others finding out; lack of adequate support; loss of relationships, friends, and family; worries about health, job, finances, insurance, and death; and coping with depression all become major factors.

Fortunately, one need not deal with all this alone. To assist in considering these issues, AIDS Services of Austin's Education Department will offer a two-part seminar, Workplace Issues for HIV+ Employees, on Thursday, February 15 and 22. Each night will feature a different set of issues, so plan to attend both sessions. The seminar is a joint effort of ASA's Wellness Program and the Workplace Task Force and is designed for HIV-positive people, although others may find it useful, too.

Topics will include physiological and psychological manifestations of HIV/AIDS which might result in impairment or disability, rights and responsibilties of both employer and employee, disability, accomodation, insurance, and disclosure.

The programs will be held 7-9:30pm. at Franklin Plaza, 111 Congress, Suite 850. Parking is free in the building garage. A $10 donation will be appreciated to help cover costs, and RSVP's are requested so enough materials can be prepared. Call Maureen Pilon at 406-6168 for RSVP or information.

John Sandy Bartlett, Workplace Task Force Coordinator

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