Oklahoma: CarePoint Counsels HIV-Positive Jobless
June 15, 2004
Thanks to successful drug therapy, about 37 percent of people being treated for HIV/AIDS are able to remain employed, according to the HIV Cost and Service Utilization Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Oklahoma's Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) wants to see that percentage keep rising, so it contracts with private agencies to provide employment counseling and other services for HIV-positive people. Other contracts look to educate employers about HIV in the workplace.
"When somebody goes to work, they better their lives, they pay taxes and there's a greater chance they will be self-sufficient and the load will be lighter on the taxpayer," said DRS spokesperson Jody Harlan.
One DRS contract helps fund David Turpin's work as employment and volunteer services coordinator for CarePoint, an HIV/AIDS service agency in Oklahoma City. Working can help people with HIV stay healthy, Turpin tells clients.
Some of Turpin's clients are coming back to work after a long absence following their HIV diagnosis. Some may have expected to die rapidly and therefore cashed in life insurance and maxed-out credit cards.
Turpin learns what clients did before becoming ill. He asks where their interests lie, then helps them craft resumes and build job skills. The biggest obstacle these workers face is illegal employment discrimination, which is why Turpin counsels secrecy about HIV status and other health issues. The only exception to his rule is when a client seeks a hospital job involving invasive procedures, which does not often happen.
HIV infection qualifies as a disability, and the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate against the disabled. Still, discrimination does occur. Through 1999, more than 3,500 HIV discrimination charges were filed in the United States. Eighteen percent of those had merit, according to a 2002 study reported by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Policy.
06.15.04; Judy Gibbs Robinson; Jim Killackey
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.