While huge strides continue to be made in regard to the treatment of HIV, in the US there are an estimated 1.3 million people who are HIV positive. In the UK, that figure is around 100,000.
Despite the fact that the disease is no longer steeped in the stigma it once was, taboos still pervade around being diagnosed and living with HIV. And the fact is, it has now become something that someone can live with without having any complications, meaning they can live and work just like anyone else.
However, there is still a drought of information and awareness around the disease that can lead to many HIV-positive people feeling uncomfortable with disclosing their status at work and having access to necessary resources.
So, what can employers do to challenge the taboos surrounding HIV?
1. Educate and Raise Awareness
The first step is the most obvious: educate your workforce and raise awareness about the virus. Provide training sessions or workshops to help employees understand what HIV is, how it’s transmitted, and dispel common myths and misconceptions surrounding it. This will help reduce stigma around the topic and instead foster a sense of empathy which, at the same time, will strengthen your people’s power skills.
2. Encourage Open Communication
Managers who can build trust with their team and present themselves as approachable will be able to find it easier to start a dialogue with staff. This will enable HIV-positive workers to feel more confident in disclosing their status, and they should then be reassured that this disclosure will remain confidential so that their privacy can be respected. This ensures that the employee is getting any necessary support and accommodations without any fear of judgement.
3. Flexible Working Arrangements
Recognize that employees with HIV may have medical appointments and treatments that require a level of flexibility in their work schedule. Offering remote working hours or adjusted working arrangements can help accommodate these needs without having to compromise their job performance.
4. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
EAPs should have tailored resources to support individuals with HIV. This can include access to specialized mental health services, or the appropriate charities and organizations who can better externally support these needs.
5. Regularly Review and Update Policies
Employers should be periodically reviewing their workplace policies in relation to long-term illnesses such as HIV to ensure they remain current and remain aligned with best practices and legal requirements. They can even communicate with HIV positive staff member(s) to help refresh these policies and ensure they are properly reflecting their needs.
Recognizing and understanding how best to support those who are HIV-positive in the workplace is a great way of reinforcing your values of inclusivity and support. This will help to create a culture at work that empowers employees from all walks of life, and ensures that they are their most productive, as well as being their most fulfilled and appreciated.
If you would like to discuss how we can help train your team around these issues, and help craft and implement inclusivity policies, please get in touch with us.