News / Health

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

FILE - Flowers are laid as tributes to those killed in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, at the base of a large sign for the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, July 20, 2014.
FILE - Flowers are laid as tributes to those killed in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, at the base of a large sign for the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, July 20, 2014.
Anita Powell

The vast majority of AIDS patients are of working age, according to statistics from U.N. AIDS.

And so, as the working population changes, AIDS activists say the workplace also needs to adapt. Many organizations, including the U.N.’s labor agency, have called on businesses to create HIV-friendly policies for the workplace.

But how that will actually play out in the workplace varies widely from country to country.

Some nations, such as Australia, which has a low AIDS prevalence rate of about 0.2 percent, have proactive, federally funded workplace programs and progressive policies. Australians also enjoy national health care, which provides a safety net for employees.

HIV policies

Brent Allan, who is on the AIDS conference’s organizing committee and is based in Melbourne as the head of Living Positive Victoria, says he challenges all workplaces to set up HIV policies.

“This is a policy that caters to the well-being of their employees. If their employees are feeling good, if their employees are healthy, they’re going to be more productive,” Allan said.

In the United States, David Phillips, who works for the government-run National Institutes of Health, says he has had HIV his entire working life - since he was 17.

Phillips says he welcomes one recent development in U.S. policy, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which he says offers HIV patients the flexibility to change jobs without losing their HIV coverage under their private Insurance plan.

At the office, he offers simple advice to colleagues and bosses.

“I would say the big thing is to try to keep as much normalcy about the situation as possible. In this day and age, people living with HIV, we have pretty much a normal life expectancy,” Phillips said.

“Pretty much the first day I work with a new boss, I sit them down and I tell them about my HIV story and some other medical issues. It’s really to say, that ‘Hey, we can really perform well.’ It’s not like the old days where you were constantly popping out for doctor’s appointments because people were sick,” he added.

That does not mean, Phillips says, that HIV does not affect workers.

“For most people who’ve had HIV a long time, their bodies have been taxed by coping with the virus and the medications, that many people physically feel 10, 15, 20 years older than their chronological age. I’m very fortunate that at almost 50, I feel like I’m 25 most of the time, and the only thing that’s killing me right now are my feet from walking on these hard convention center floors,” he adds, laughing.

Discrimination

But in other nations, particularly within sub-Saharan Africa, which has the world’s highest AIDS rate of about 4.7 percent, working with AIDS is not always so easy.

AIDS patients, who are overwhelmingly female, often face discrimination. Many African governments provide free HIV medication - but patients often have to take time off work to queue for hours at government facilities.

In the southern African nation of Malawi, Safari Mbewe, the executive director of the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV, says AIDS support systems need to come into the workplace, with voluntary and confidential HIV support programs.

“If we could explore the possibility of having these facilities within the workplace. So each and every company, each and every organization should have a facility within their campus that should take care of their employees. So when an employee needs HIV testing, an employee needs ARVs, they don’t have to go elsewhere, because this is what is affecting the productivity as well," Mbewe says.

"If it’s done, if everything is provided within the same workplace, it means all the employees would have adequate time to concentrate on their work,” he adds.

Mbewe says he’s heard countless tales of workers being fired for their HIV-positive status in Malawi.

Doesn't disclose status

And so Mbewe, unlike Phillips, does not disclose his HIV status at work. That makes him a bit of an anomaly: in Southern Africa, it is common for workers to put their health status at the top of their resume.

"I think it’s not important. Because my belief is that the employers should be looking at one’s capability to do the job. So whether one is HIV positive or not, it doesn’t make any difference,” Mbewe said.

The conference has dedicated many hours to the discussion of workplace issues, debating issues of privacy, of policies and of workers’ rights across a spectrum of diverse labor laws and workplace cultures.

But throughout, the underlying message around the world is the same: people with HIV want to work.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs