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HIV and 2 year disability
May 2, 2003

I am an HIV positive male living in South Florida but working for a company based in San Francisco. My job requires about 50-80 travel to client sites throughout the U.S.

I have been positive for 15 years and in the past year have had Shingles, Leukoplakia, numerous colds and flu's of unnatural duration, unexplained fevers, night sweats, loss of sex drive (2 years), and chronic fatigue.

Travel induces diarhea, loss of sleep, and exhaustion which requires 2-3 days for me to recover. Additionally, I am certain that the colds are related to the travel as well.

My T-Cell count fluctuates between 80 and 120.

I have attempted to adhere to medicines knowing this is life or death. Unfortunately, I have found this impossible when travelling to 4 cities in 5 days. Up at 4am on the road, flying out at 5pm into next city at Midnight.

I have failed three regimens due to simple errors such as leaving important medicines on the nightstand of a hotel and being without them for a week.

I have also missed 2 weeks of work due to illness - HPV surgery, and Shingles.

My insurance policy states I can take a 2 year disability provided I cannot earn 80 of my earnings in my local marketplace - and I have an illness of disabling nature.

I am very concerned about my health, its obvious worsening condition, inability to adhere to meds given my works travel demands.

I'm wondering if its time to go on a 2 year disability. My goal for that time would be to work on restoring my health, bringing up my T-cells to a reasonable level, and then restarting work in the local market - hopefully with new contacts that will enable me to ahve a travel free job.

Is this reasonable - possible? I have tried to find an HIV attorney in Miami - but have had no luck. Suggestions?

I fear applying for the group policy disability on my plan - because if I do not succeed - or fail - then I'm basically outed as HIV to everyone in my HR group.

Response from Ms. Franzoi

First, you should discuss with your doctor to determine whether or not he thinks you would qualify for disability. If you do apply for disability, the application would be with the insurance carrier not with your company. The insurance carrier has a legal obligation to protect your health information, i.e., they cannot disclose the nature of your illness to your employer. Even your docotor when putting you out on a medical leave or advising your employer that you need an accommodation at work should only specify the period of time you must be out or the accommodation that must be made not the specifics of the illness that requires this.

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