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Considering Going Back to Work When You're HIV Positive

December 16, 2015

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 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:

Applying for a Job

In the US, people with disabilities, including HIV, are protected from job discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In other words, your HIV status is confidential. You do not have to disclose your status to a prospective or present employer. If you have not had any HIV-related symptoms or illnesses and are not on medications that are affecting your job performance, there is probably no need to tell them. It is important to note that each country has its own laws about HIV status and employment. In some places, living with HIV can disqualify a job candidate.

Here are some potential trouble spots:

Taking Care of Yourself

Once you find a job, it is important to remember that you were hired for your skills. Whatever you believe about disclosing your HIV status at work, keep the focus on your performance. If you want to disclose at work, you may consider waiting for a few months so that you have a chance to get to know your co-workers and get a sense of how they might respond to the news that you are living with HIV.

If you disclose to one co-worker, it is important to be prepared for all co-workers to know your status. Also, although supervisors, managers, human resources (HR) staff, and company officers in charge of employee relations may be required by law to keep your diagnosis private if you tell them, not everyone follows the laws and obeys the rules.

In the US, there are no automatic triggers for disclosing your HIV status at work. You are not required to disclose at work, even if:

If you are thinking about going back to work, or returning to a full-time job after a period of part-time employment, it is important to talk with your health care provider so that you have the best chance of staying healthy during your work transition. A change in jobs or employment status is considered a major life stressor, even when the new job is a totally positive, wonderful thing. Therefore, it is important to prepare yourself by planning ahead, making sure you have adequate support, and remembering that it is okay to go slowly and be gentle with yourself.

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