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financial worries
Jan 15, 2002

WOW!!!!!I am very impressed with the expert advice provided here within this column, since it seems there is a prevalence of HIV ignorance in the corporate world! I am an early-twenties female with 2 younger children and also providing for my husband with AIDS. I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, but neverless intelligent. I am now working as an accountant on a contractual basis and I am reluctant to move forward in my career because of a few issues related to my health. First of all, after eight years of being HIV+ I am now expieriencing symptoms that interfere with my performance at work. Fortunately my meds (this cocktail, anyways) are not affecting me, but the doctor checkups are with trying to coordinate within my schedule. Secondly, I am held back by the constant fear of going back to school and eventually attaining my MBA in finance while working because of extending both my physical health of taking care of my family and myself (as in lack of rest!) and the enjoyment of my financial freedoms. Then the other worry, having to leave behind a comfy lifestyle and go on government dependency because I'm too sick to work a job that provides decently. Things have really become scary for me and I really feel stuck in the "what if's" and I am supressing my motivation to move forward with my career. What is your advice to me?

Response from Ms. Breuer

Congratulations on handling so many things so well! You are obviously a strong person with a lot of emotional resources. But what you're doing--working, caring for a husband with AIDS, raising two young children--would wear down the Energizer Bunny.

Without being able to talk with you, I can make only general suggestions. Here they are: 1. Talk with your doc about your symptoms. Often docs don't spend enough time teaching patients how to manage symptoms, and most of them really are manageable. Especially because they're interfering with your productivity, this is your highest priority. If the doc doesn't have time to spend with you, beat down the door of anyone you know who is a nurse providing care to patients with chronic illness. The nurse is likely to know more about symptom management than the doc, although the doc should help you with trying to eliminate the cause. With the symptoms under control, you can move on to step 2. 2. Think about getting a job with benefits. Your skill is very portable. I'm assuming that because you're on contract work, you don't have benefits. In your situation, this is risky, and causing you a lot of stress. You could get long term disability insurance if you joined a company with a group policy. Even if you had to take a job somewhat below your ability, I would say that for right now, getting long term disability insurance is a must. 3. There is no reason not to invest in your future by going back to school, but that's probably not your best immediate choice. Let your health be the barometer of when you start taking courses. It's a great idea with a great future, as long as you're feeling well enough to do it. This one you can start anytime--there's no rush.

The foundation of everything you've asked about is your health. Let your doc know how much the symptoms are interfering and don't leave the office until you're satisfied that you're getting some real help with that. You are the family's linchpin. For the short term and the long term, I would recommend aiming at a job with benefits, getting stable in that situation, then starting coursework as your health permits. Please take good care of yourself, and please meet with a case manager at your local AIDS service organization. It's worth hiring a babysitter for a few hours to have that meeting. You sound as though you're trying to solve all this by yourself, and it's a huge burden. Please meet with someone who may know about resources you haven't guessed exist.

Thank you for writing, and please keep us posted.



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