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Recently diagnosed and overwhelmed
Sep 12, 2003

I'm 23 years old, live with mother and sister, and still closeted about my sexuality and have not disclosed my HIV status to them. I believe I contracted HIV from the first time I had sex (which was in March 2002). I was recently diagnosed as HIV positive. I am not covered by any insurance now, and make less than 25,000 now (I live in Florida). I just received the results of my CD4 count and viral load today: 435 and 47000 copies/mL, respectively. These levels will not allow me to receive government benefits for meds, even though I meet the income requirements.

The clinic is offering free meds if I participate in one of their research studies. The pros are that I receive free meds and reportedly "cutting edge" HIV care. The cons are that

1) I will have to choose 1 of the 4 studies, and then there's an element of loss of choice because I will be randomly assigned to a test group.

2) Participating in the studies will require more frequent visits to the clinic, which is difficult given my "closeted" status about sexuality and HIV status.

3) I am unsure which of the studies I should choose, if any.

To add to the picture, I am in the process of getting hired to work as an underwriter for a dental health insurer, which provides significant health benefits. If I am hired, the salary will disqualify me from receiving government benefits for meds. Without existing health insurance, will the company deny me from receiving benefits from pre-existing conditions?

I really need advice, specifically on how group health insurance policies work - Will they ask me about my HIV status? Will they require blood tests?

I would really appreciate a quick response.

Thanks a lot!

Response from Ms. Breuer

Both Lynn Franzoi and I are contributing to this answer, since you've asked a bunch of questions.

Only you can decide how much risk you want to take concerning the study. If you're about to begin a new job, the greatest risk involved might be the time away from work.

Here's the general information about the new employer and insurance from Lynn Franzoi:

With respect to your health plan issues, if the employer offers a health plan, it is probably a group health plan and you would be covered. Some group health plans have a pre-existing condition clause and others do not. If the plan does have a pre-existing condition clause, it would apply only if you had seen a doctor or received treatment for an illness in a period of time (usually 90 days). If there is a pre-existing condition clause that applies to you, it would only apply for 12 months.

And this is Nancy again: Group plans normally allow enrollment without any blood tests. If you receive a "health questionnaiare," please read the other answers at this site about how to fill that out with your doc so that you are truthful, but discreet. You are not required to disclose your diagnosis.

If they actually ask you about your HIV status, reply with this answer: I am fully able to fulfill the functions of this job and have no condition that would prevent me from doing so.

Then stop talking. Pressing for detailed medical information is illegal. For good advice about how to continue if they are boorish enough to press an illegal question, go to www.bkohlenberg.com and read her articles about surviving job interviews. She has counseled people with disabilities, especially HIV, for 20 years.



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