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Would you eat the food I serve you? Use the food knife I just put down on the counter? Hire someone with chronic illness like HIV?

cakesIn the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the majority of the world’s population found themselves completely consumed in fear; fear of the unknown. Over 30 years after from the discovery of HIV & AIDS the world still remains fearful, sceptical and above all, silent; around the topic of the HIV and those who live with the virus every day.

From the early 1980’s where nobody knew anything, to present day 2013 where we almost so much more and a cure seems ever-so possible…doesn’t it all seem ridiculous? Ridiculous that the same fear still remains despite medical science now knowing how the virus is transmitted, how everyone can avoid it, and how to ensure those living with HIV can live long and fulfilling lives.

Is it a lack of education? Or a lack of acceptance? HIV and sexual relationships may always hold the most problematic stigma- for obvious reasons; but for the purpose of this piece I’m focusing primarily on the completely risk-free activities and daily tasks that still seem to carry a lot of questions and fear.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have finally found myself a job serving cakes in a patisserie, but how does my HIV status impact on this job role? It doesn’t. Science has proven time after time, decade after decade that HIV cannot be transmitted and acquired via daily casual contact. Kissing, shaking hands, toilet seats or sweat have continuously proven to have no-risk factor among the human population.

After returning home from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to have my blood work done this morning, I noticed a message on Grindr (a gay dating app) from someone who had recently read my blog – “I am somewhat concerned that your HIV status could work against you if word comes out and the customers etc find out”, he went on to say that “a high percentage of people would not purchase anything from some company, especially when it comes to food/drink if they know who made or even served it has got HIV”.

Is he right? Despite the fact this statement made me feel slightly incompetent in my new job role, even though I do not come into any physical contact with any food (Food Safety Act 1990) does he have a point when considering a customer’s perspective? And do they have the right to think this?

A few weeks ago during my shift, my manager handed me a medical form to fill out and sign for staff records. “Do you take any regular medications? If so, what for?”, despite finally feeling as comfortable, open and happy regarding my HIV status than ever before, why was I staring at the page feeling extremely anxious and uneasy? Was it the fear of personal judgement in a job I had waited so long to obtain? Or was it the feeling that my HIV status would forever be an unnecessary cause for concern when it came to the recruitment process? “ATRIPLA (Anti retroviral therapy) for HIV-1 infection”. Signed, sealed, and delivered.

Only last week my new boss noticed and then questioned my medical form. She asked me if I was okay and if she could do anything to help, she stated that she knew nothing about HIV and was very eager to listen to everything I had to say regarding false stereotypical risk-factors and my own personal health. Her compassion and attentiveness really made me feel like I was worrying about nothing, but like many people living with HIV, both past and present (and unfortunately future), HIV discrimination in the work place is profound and has seen many men and women made redundant without valid reason, shunned by co-workers and driven out of employment through repetitive poor misconduct.

Will I be made ‘redundant’ in the next few months? Maybe not, but I cannot read minds nor predict the future. Ignorance and discrimination against HIV, Hepatitis, LGBTQI people, ethnicity, physical/mental disability or illness, sex and even social class still silently exists among more western culture than I believe many of us know, and despite how many laws are set in stone to prevent unfair dismissal, I wonder how many cases never make it to court.

What are your opinions on HIV in the workplace? Would you eat the food I serve you? Use the food knife I just put down on the counter? Hire someone with chronic illness like HIV?

Does HIV affect my role as a student, worker and close friend? It really doesn’t. But what do you think?

Luke (@PositiveLuke on twitter)

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9 COMMENTS

  1. OF COURSE!

    I would give you a big hug and a cuddle and devour all your patisserie.

    As a gay man who’s coming out was completely screwed by the emergence of AIDS in the early 80’s, I understand a lot of what you say and feel like it applies to me too and still, even though I remain negative. Well written, well put, good luck.
    B
    xxx

  2. Good post mate. You always seem to make your readers question their own feelings about your subject , which is quite a skill.

    I would not have any problem working with, for or employing someone who is HIV positive. Nor would I refuse to patronise a company that had positive attitudes towards employing them. Indeed, I am MORE likely to shop somewhere if I know them to be good employers who respect their diverse staff.

    I’d be glad to have you serve me cake and day of the week. Because, y’know, cake.

  3. All I got from that was “CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE”.

    I don’t think anyone is fussed tbh, people are a lot more aware these days about HIV and transmission, also the mad world of health and safety, people know that no contact with the food is made and you wouldn’t be doing the job if there was a risk.

  4. As the owner of a coffee shop in Birmingham, I’d be no more or less likely to employ someone based on their HIV status than I would on their hair colour, favourite beverage or surname. And I also wouldn’t care if that person wanted to be ‘openly positive’ because frankly if my customers had a problem with that then I’d rather they got their coffee elsewhere.

    I’m almost tempted to suggest that a positive person is likely to be more acutely aware of hygiene issues and the need for cleanliness in food/drink service!

  5. Aww Lukey I do love you and your blog and for the record we have shared a pizza and kisses n hugs n I’m negative so fuck the haters ;D x

  6. The only reason I’d refuse service from you is that I have diabetes and avoid sweet stuff in order not to re-acquire the sweet tooth I once had! Fix me some dim sum, though… 😉 Apart from anything else, since your manager knows, you’re covered by the 2010 Equalities Act (or whatever they’re calling it now).

    Your Grindr, well, I hate to use the word correspondent as that gives him too much dignity is an idiot, and from my reading of what he said, is out to upset and unsettle you. Block the !

  7. I’m positive so I would definitely eat the food you serve/prepare, hug you, share a drink with you etc. Even if I was negative, I’d do the same still as I’ve learnt a lot about the disease, know how it’s transmitted and not.

    I’ve been on medication for 10 years and as strong and healthy as any other person out there. Been married for 1 year to a wonderful man, he’s negative and he’s one of the many people who treat people from all walks of life with the same respect and empathy.

    My sister & brother in law trusted me with their new born baby who is now 9 years old and they knew I had the virus – not once did they feel I would endanger my nephew, they just saw me as a loving, trustworthy auntie, and that to me is love and that’s all we need, HIV+ people need love, care like every other person out there

    So, hang in there, don’t stress and just live your life positively.

    Let’s not worry about the minority who discriminate and act as if they are above everybody else.

    Love and huggies

  8. Ppl fearing catching HIV from being served a cake…

    I would like to think this kind of idiocy went out after the 80s but sadly not.

  9. I note that the complainant contacted Luke via GRINDR. Presumably he is therefore gay or bisexual.

    I am afraid this comes as no great surprise to me. These days it is often negative/untested gay men who are amongst the worst bigots against people with HIV and AIDS.

    I have been on the receiving end of nastiness myself by partners who made (wrong) assumptions about my status simply because I had books and literature on HIV and AIDS lying about.

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