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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs