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Returning to full-time work vs. staying on disability
Nov 5, 1999

I'm stuck in the dilemma like so many Lazarus-types. No viral load, CD4 300+, working under the table to preserve benefits, worried that I won't have the energy for full-time work 52 wks/yr and who's going to give me health insurance? If I go to work and have to fill out an insurance questionaire, won't everyone at the workplace end up knowing my HIV status? Thanks for your help. On the edge in Santa Barbara.

Response from Ms. Breuer

First, if you have to fill out an insurance questionnaire to qualify for group health insurance at your place of employment, I'll be surprised and disappointed. The larger the employer, the less likely that you'll face this, but really you shouldn't have to apply for participation in group health insurance. Your "application" is your job interview. You join the group, you enjoy the group benefit.

Second, if you do have to fill out a questionnaire, remember that you can certainly ask questions of the HR department about the purposes of the questionnaire and who sees it. It is always appropriate to remind HR staff (by asking, for one) that employees' medical information is confidential. If there is medical information about an employee in writing, it must be stored in a locked file, separate from the personnel file, to which only the director of HR or some comparable person (such as the occupational health nurse) has access. Such an application would be one of those documents.

If you are asked to complete a questionnaire before a job offer is extended,or as a condition of hire, please contact an HIV-knowledgeable attorney in your area right away. The best place to find this person would be through your local AIDS service organization. One firm, inquiring letter from the attorney to the employer could help not only you, but all who follow you in applying to work there.

Nancy Breuer



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