A new report presents some encouraging news about HIV in the workplace and offers suggestions for securing further job-related protection for those with the virus.
Britain's National Aids Trust (NAT) tapped the gay social networking site Gaydar for participants in an online survey among people with HIV. More than half of the respondents said HIV had no effect on their working life, and 75 percent said the workplace disclosure of their HIV status had been "generally positive."
Some 70 percent of the respondents said they had not taken an HIV-related sick day in the previous year, and researchers concluded there was "no significant difference in the number of sick days taken" between employees with and without HIV.
On the other hand, HIV-positive employees expressed a great deal of anxiety about the possibility of HIV-related discrimination, particularly through the use of pre-employment health questionnaires from employers.
"Their fear is not unfounded," the report says. "Research shows that some employers automatically excluded people during the recruitment process on health grounds."
A coalition of organizations, including the NAT, is backing national legislation mandating that disclosure of a health-related condition be permitted only after a provisional job offer has been made.
"If a provisional job offer was on the table, and the questionnaire was used after that, then it would be much easier to track if discrimination on the grounds of health had taken place," said Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Many HIV-positive persons are not aware that Britain's Disability Discrimination Act defines HIV as a disability and offers patients protection against discrimination, said NAT Executive Director Deborah Jack. She called for stepped-up educational efforts as well as additional legal protections to prevent "inadvertent or outright" discrimination against those with HIV.