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wanting to know if I can work in a health care setting after finding out I am HIV+
Aug 24, 1998

I recently just completed a certification program to work as a Phlebotomist and EKG technologist. I am afraid that after being out of work for 3 years and having received disability insurance that I am going to have a problem finding a job in Massachussetts. Am I over reacting or could I possibly find problems and if so what should I expect?

Response from Ms. Breuer

Congratulations on successful completion of your certification program. Your HIV status should not be a barrier to your finding a job in your field because there is no reason to disclose it. Because your certificate is so recent, I'm sure you are well aware of the importance of universal precautions. Used correctly, they will protect you and your patients.

So on to the real issue here: finding a job when you've been on disability for three years. You will be asked about your gap in employment. You have two answers, and could use both: you have been taking care of a serious family illness. That is the reason for the employment gap. You do not have to disclose whose it was. Also, you have been preparing to change careers, and have been pursuing the certification program. Alas, you must expect that you could face illegal questions, such as, "Who was ill?" Or "What was the illness?" I recommend that you reply by repeating the information above: you have been taking care of a serious family illness. Then I suggest that you offer to describe to the interviewer what you learned in the process. You probably learned how to deal with complex bureaucracies (insurance companies, disability providers), how to adjust to daily changes in priorities and how to adapt to constantly changing circumstances. Those are great job skills. I suggest you present them that way. Please do not let anyone pressure you into disclosing your HIV status. Medical information is confidential, even in a medical setting. If you must undergo blood tests for routine HIV testing after you're hired, which could happen if you work in a hospital and they routinely test everyone on staff, your results should not interfere with your performance of your job.

Nancy Breuer



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