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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs