Recent revisions in Japanese law are helping boost employment among the country's HIV-positive population.
Under Japan's Disabled Person Employment Promotion Law, disabled employees must comprise more than 1.8 percent of a company's workforce. In a revision that went into effect in July, the scope of the law was expanded to encompass companies with 200 or more employees, compared to more than 301 employees previously.
Financial benefits accrue to companies that meet the 1.8 percent quota, and fines are levied against those that do not. A 1998 Japanese law recognizes HIV-positive persons as disabled.
"Companies that are required to employ a mandated number of handicapped people are particularly interested in employing people with HIV since there isn't much limitation on the jobs they can do," said Katsumi Ohira, managing director of the Social Welfare Corporation Habataki Welfare Project based in Tokyo.
According to the Japanese labor ministry, 123 people with an immune handicap found work in fiscal 2009 through Hello Work placement offices, almost a four-fold increase from the 35 persons who did so in fiscal 2004. At another job placement operation, the proportion of offers to HIV-positive workers in July 2010 totaled 20 of 275, up from two or three out of 230 in December of last year.
Still, many HIV-positive job seekers do not divulge their HIV status for fear of discrimination, said an advocate for HIV-positive workers.
"It's stressful for [HIV-positive persons] to work somewhere without telling anyone," said Yuzuru Ikushima a consultant for Place Tokyo, an HIV support organization. Nevertheless, Ikushima encouraged HIV-positive persons to be as forthcoming as possible about their status.
"If more companies understand the disease, and more [HIV-positive persons] tell about their experiences and work without anxiety, people will become more familiar with HIV and will think more about prevention," Ikushima said.