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Starting over with career after AIDS diagnosis
Jun 2, 2004

I was diagnosed January 27th of 2003 with AIDS. At that time I had a cd4 count of 50 PCP and weighed 137 pounds. I was in the hospital for a few weeks, started a drug regime and all recovered well. Before my diagnosis I did not realize I was sick and had never been that sick in my life. I was really on my death bed and many things changed for me.

I have a great employer. I am a police officer and my agency saw me getting sick stood by me in hospital and has been there with me every step after my diagnosis. Yes the Chief and command staff are aware of my diagnosis and I am not the only poz officer within the agency. I have great insurance a great doc and my health is very good. Now with that said my question.

I am 32 years old at the half way point in my retirement ( i ll be able to fully retire in 12 years with benefits) but I want more than this job. Until I got so sick I thought being a cop was all I wanted now though I realize there are other things I want to do. I honestly have always knew if the cop job did not work out I would want to do something in the medical field. Maybe paramedic or nurse or something. Now I find myself thinking about just quiting and going back to college so I can pursue a second career. I am sure people around my age change careers all the time but with my need for insurance I do not know if it would be a wise move.

I know I should be happy and content with my career and the blessings I have because of it. But until your on your death bed you never realize how short life is and that you only get one chance at so why not go for it.

Is there any federal programs or state programs (I live in florida) that would assist me in going to school and with my insurance it I would quit. I am able to work and do not plan on seeking any type of disabililty but would like to benefit from programs that would assist me as an hiv poz individual in retraining for a career.

Any advice would help


Confused about my future in Florida

Response from Ms. Breuer

What I love about your letter is that it's written in the present tense, not in the past tense with the question being "What can I do now?" You are so smart to be thinking about all of the implications before you make a move.

First, continuity of care. Investigate the cost of private insurance, since that's what you'd need if you left your job and became a student instead of taking another job with benefits. Yes, there is student health insurance, but it probably wouldn't have broad enough coverage for your meds and other needs. The insurers we know about who cover HIV-positive applicants are New York Life, Mutual of Omaha, and Physicians's Life and Guarantee Trust Life Insurance. Get your quotes through a broker so that you can compare apples with apples.

Next, contact the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care ( to ask about support for your desired career change. We don't know of such programs here, but they might.

If there is no support for retraining, would your employer consider allowing you to work a reduced schedule to attend nursing or EMT school part time--especially if you could put those skills to use in a new job with the department? Does changing careers really mean you'd have to leave, or can you find a creative way to combine your policing experience with some medical education? Could you keep your seniority and insurance if you worked as an EMT for the same municipality?

You're at the information-gathering stage. It's a confusing place to be, but you're asking the right questions. I encourage you to silence that voice in your head that tells you how content you "should" be. Your skills as a cop rely on your being fully in touch with your own emotional responses. This is no time to deny them!

One of the finest nurses I know was working as a marketing guy for the movie industry when his partner was diagnosed with AIDS. He left his job, went to nursing school, cared for his partner until his partner's death, then went on to become the department head for a nursing specialty group in one of the country's leading hospitals. He still shakes his head in wonder at the whole journey, and he loves his job.

You can find a way to do this, I think. There's no hurry, and you get to ask all the questions you want along the way. How about going to your chief and asking what he knows about ways you could enhance your skills by becoming an EMT or a nurse? There may be an option right under your nose.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to read about your workplace experience. We hear from a lot of officers who feel no freedom at all to disclose at work.

Write again to let us know what you're doing, please!

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