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?
In 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)