HIV is recognised as a disability from the point of diagnosis under the Equality Act 2010. There are approximately 100,000 people in the UK receiving specialist HIV treatment. If you are living with HIV, you are protected against discrimination in all settings, including the workplace.
What is HIV and AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages the immune system and weakens a person’s ability to fight everyday infection and disease. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the condition that results in potentially life-threatening infections that occur when your immune system has been damaged by HIV.
There is currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most individuals diagnosed with HIV to live a long and healthy lives.
Advances to medicine and a significant improvement in people’s health and quality of life means that most people living with HIV do not consider themselves to have a disability. However, the stigma, misconceptions and prejudice surrounding the condition remain apparent in society and nowhere more so than in the workplace.
Regardless of whether a HIV diagnosis affects a person’s wellbeing or advances into AIDS, anyone with the diagnosis is protected against discrimination under UK law. Visit our specialised guide for further information on your rights as a disabled employee.
For further information and support about HIV and AIDS visit the NHS website.
Managing Work-Life with HIV/AIDS
Advances in medication mean that many people with HIV can lead normal, healthy lives, including having a job. There is no requirement for you to disclose an HIV diagnosis to an employer; however, if you choose to do so, then there may be ways in which you can receive support at work.
You have the right to request reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Reasonable adjustments refer to modifications or alterations to your job or work environment that enable disabled people and those with health conditions to perform their job effectively. One of the most common adjustments that people with HIV can benefit from is a flexible working schedule.
For further employment support and advice for people with HIV and AIDS, visit the National AIDS Trust.
Advice for Employers
HIV is a non-visible disability. Unfortunately, very few workers feel confident or comfortable enough to disclose their HIV-positive status to their employer due to the stigma associated with the condition. Many workers living with HIV have fears concerning their confidentiality. It is essential to handle data about your employees sensitively and confidentially, and this should be well-communicated to your workforce.
Employers are also responsible in ensuring that employees do not face discrimination or harassment at work. It should be made clear that harassment of disabled colleagues will not be tolerated in your workplace, including those living with HIV.
It is a legal requirement to offer reasonable adjustments to the workplace to help disabled employees do their job. This includes workers with HIV and AIDS. One of the most useful reasonable adjustments to offer is work schedule flexibility. An employee with HIV may benefit from modifications to their working hours or work schedule. For example, they may be required to attend regular doctor or healthcare appointments. Moreover, a flexible working schedule may help your employee manage any side-effects from HIV medication such as fatigue, nausea and sleep disturbances.