Call for action on HIV workplace discrimination


A majority of men living with HIV say the condition is having no negative impact on their working life, although a significant minority are experiencing discrimination, according to a new report.

The Working with HIV report, by the National AIDS Trust (NAT) and London’s City University, includes the first major survey of the workplace experiences of people living with HIV.

The report says that 58 per cent of the 1,800 gay men with HIV who took part in the survey – all members of the gay social networking website Gaydar – said being HIV positive had not affected their work.

Three in five of the respondents had disclosed their HIV status to someone at work, of whom more than three-quarters reported a generally positive response.

But a fifth of those who had disclosed their HIV status experienced discrimination, such as being excluded or having their confidentiality breached.

Two-fifths of those who experienced such discrimination in a previous job said they believed it led to them losing that job.

And nearly a fifth of respondents said they had been asked about their HIV status on a pre-employment health questionnaire. Of those who knew they were HIV positive at the time, about half did not disclose their status.

A third of those questioned were unaware of their workplace rights to protection under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

Among its recommendations, the report calls for the government to ban the use of pre-employment health-related questions that are not directly related to ability to do the job. The government promised in July to address this issue through its equality bill.

The report also calls for: increased awareness among employers of the reasonable adjustments people with HIV may need at work; employers, professional associations and trades unions to tackle HIV-related discrimination; and the Equality and Human Rights Commission and HIV support organisations to ensure people with HIV are aware of their DDA rights.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of NAT, said the overall picture was “positive”, but she called for “a cultural change” in UK workplaces.

She said: “Simple, proactive steps by employers to show they understand HIV and would be supportive of disclosure will have a dramatic effect on the working lives of people with HIV.”

27 August 2009

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