HIV in the WorkplaceHIV in the workplace

It’s important to address the issue of HIV in the workplace. It’s no secret that there are many untrue facts about HIV and AIDS out there, and this often leads to unintentional discrimination against people living with HIV and Aids.

It is important that we all know the facts about HIV/Aids and that we know when information about the disease are untrue. This ensures that people living with HIV are not discriminated against and it also helps us prevent the disease.

So, let’s take a closer look some of the things that are just not true about HIV, and how to make colleagues living with HIV feel welcome in the workplace and our communities.

“I can get HIV by using the same stationery as someone with the virus.”

The virus is spread through blood, semen, vaginal fluids and mother’s milk. That means that you cannot get the virus simply through touching someone who is HIV-positive, or:

Using the same knife or fork 

Breathing the same air 

Touching a toilet seat 

Drinking from a water fountain

Hugging, kissing, or shaking hands 

Using equipment at the gym

Getting mosquito bites

“An HIV person doesn’t have long left to live.” 

This may have been true a decade or two ago, but not anymore. Nowadays, doctors know enough about HIV and AIDS to provide an HIV-positive person with the appropriate antiretroviral drugs which could allow them to live full, normal lives.

“Male circumcision prevents HIV, so I’m good!”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t prevent the spread of the infection, it only decreases your risk. Studies show that male circumcision can reduce your chances of contracting the virus by up to 60%, but it’s still important to practice safe sex. 

“Anti-retroviral drugs disfigure a person’s face and body.”

Although this was a side effect in the past, science has come a long way in recent years and this very rarely occurs. What’s more, with so many drugs to choose from, doctors can now monitor the patient’s reaction and change their medication, depending on their reaction to the medication. 

A person who is HIV-positive can’t (and shouldn’t) have children.

Because of this myth, many HIV-positive women are often unfairly judged and cast out of the community for wanting children. The reality is that, if the mother and her baby use the correct medication, the odds of the virus carrying over to the baby is very low. Even without using any drugs, there is only a 30% chance that the HIV-infected woman will pass the virus onto her baby.

“An HIV-positive person is irresponsible and cannot be trusted at work.”

This type of judgment creates a very hostile working environment. HIV is a condition that could threaten one’s life and people living with HIV already have a lot to deal with and overcome. There is no need at all to judge somebody living with HIV – it is not their fault and they do not deserve negative judgement. What they need is support and care. Their role in the workplace is still valued and valuable. Try to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. 

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EMAIL: transneteap@mhg.co.za 

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