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Considering Going Back to Work When You're HIV Positive

December 16, 2015

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Considering Going Back to Work When You're HIV Positive

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Many people living with HIV (HIV+) are living longer, healthier lives because of the success of newer HIV drugs. In addition, newer HIV drugs often have less serious or troublesome side effects than older HIV drugs. Therefore, many people living with HIV who may have felt very ill and been unable to work when first diagnosed may now feel well enough to consider returning to work.

Are You Ready to Return to Work?

Returning to work and feeling productive can boost your confidence and make you feel better about yourself. However, the idea of re-entering the workforce can also trigger fears and concerns. Before you jump in, here are a few simple questions to help you get started:

  • What does your health care provider think about your working? Your provider's thoughts on your readiness for work, including what type of work and how many hours per week, will likely be based on your overall health and trends in your CD4 count and viral load.
  • Have you tested your stamina (sustained energy level)? Many job counselors recommend volunteering for a while to build up to full-time work. If you volunteer for an organization that you like, you might be offered a job there in the future. Start with a part-time schedule and gradually add more hours per week to test your energy levels.
  • Why do you want to work? "I need a job for the money" is a good reason to work, but not the only one. Many people living with HIV who work report that the structure of a job helps them adhere to their HIV drugs and maintain a healthy lifestyle. For others, a job provides a sense of purpose or a social group with a sense of belonging that can be a type of family. What do you want your work to do for you?
  • Do you have enough support at home, or in your close circle of friends? If work makes it more difficult to fit in some of your daily chores, will you have help from family or friends?
  • How will work affect your eligibility for benefits, e.g., Social Security?

What Work Do You Want to Do?

If you identify what type of work you want to do, and what you hope to get from working, your job search will be more likely to be successful. You may want to think about what you expect to learn, how it might expand your skills, and what benefits you could enjoy from working.

It may also help to consider:

  • Your personality and skills, so that you can make a good match between what you like to do and the job description
  • Work you enjoy gives you energy, while work you dislike drains your energy
  • Talking with other people living with HIV who are working -- about their jobs, their routines, their challenges and successes
  • Some people may feel better but not well enough to return to their usual line of work. In this case, it may be helpful to think about returning to school or being retrained. In the US, each state has a vocational rehabilitation program that helps people with disabilities be retrained or find appropriate work. Click here to find the vocational rehabilitation agency in your state
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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.

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