Workplace Issues Need HIV+ Employees' Attention

Through the course of an HIV-positive person's journey with the virus, a variety of practical concerns must be addressed, whether serious disease occurs or not. Many of those aspects relate to the workplace -- discrimination, confidentiality, disclosure, insurance, disability.

The relative rights and responsibilities of the employee and the employer are outlined in various statutes and court decisions at the federal, state, and (for Austin residents) local levels. HIV disease may be regarded as a handicapping condition, and workplace discrimination against handicapped people may be forbidden.

The right to privacy of personal information applies to the workplace just as it does to our home lives. Inappropriate disclosure -- gossip -- of HIV status may be a civil or criminal violation of law, and remedies may be available. After all, disclosure in the workplace is not required of anyone.

Insurance remains one of the stickiest arenas for all Americans and is especially fraught with pitfalls for HIV-positive employees -- getting it, keeping it, affording it, losing it. But it often can be had and maintained.

Eventually, the majority of people with HIV/AIDS will leave full-time paid work as health deteriorates. Support mechanisms, public and private, need to be arranged for well ahead of time. Disability insurance and several Social Security programs can be had to ease the financial picture.

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. 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 responsibilities of both employer and employee, disability, accommodation, insurance, and disclosure. Content will be different each night, so one should plan to attend both.

The programs will be held 7-9:30pm at Franklin Plaza, 111 Congress Avenue, Suite 850. Parking is available free in the building garage. A $10 donation will be appreciated to help cover costs, and RSVPs 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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