"My partner kicked me out around the same time, and I had to go and live with my dad. Eventually, I got a job at the local college teaching motorcycle maintenance and engineering. I told my manager and the head of department about my HIV status and they were both fine about it. At one point some rumours started circulating about me and HIV, but they dealt with that really well. As a new teacher I had a support worker and I discussed with her my HIV status and again it was not a problem for her. The U=U (Undetectable = Untransmissible) message was just starting to come out about then. I had just got married and took my wife to the HIV clinic so we could discuss with a specialist what we could and couldn’t do and we were told that basically there wasn’t anything we couldn’t do.
Then there was a change in the management structure and my support worker was promoted to manager in the Arts and Dance department. At that point she asked me if the college needed to carry out a risk assessment as I was working with children. It made me feel horrible. A local HIV charity came into the college regularly to do drop-in sessions and give sexual health training but clearly this woman was not informed. So I educated her. I told her that I couldn’t infect anybody, even if I did cut myself. And if I did cut myself I would deal with it.
Shortly afterwards, I was forced out of my job. I had spent a lot of time prepping for the lessons that were going to be observed as part of my annual review. Another member of staff was suspended, and I was told to cover for them at very short notice and that this was the lesson that would be observed for the review. The lesson I had to deliver was for a subject that I didn’t teach, and I had hardly any time to prepare for it. Two teachers observed me delivering it, one of them being the Deputy Head. Immediately after the lesson I was called into the Head’s Office and they railroaded me. They shredded the paperwork I had prepped even when I told them it was material I had got from their own learning hub. Eventually they pushed me to the point where I had to quit. I tried to get support from ACAS but they can only support employees who have worked for the organisation for a minimum of 2 years and I had only been there for 23 months.
I got a part-time job at a local factory through an agency, doing the 6-2 shift. The factory manufactured parts for trucks and JCBs. I told my direct supervisor about my HIV status and she was fine. She didn’t know anything about HIV so I had to give her all the information. I got on well and was respected for the quality of work I produced. The factory offered me a full-time job but I had to be interviewed for it. I was interviewed by the HR Manager and the senior supervisor and during the interview they asked me if I had any pre-existing health issues (I now know it is illegal under the 2010 Equality Act to ask job candidates questions about their health until after they have been offered the job, but I didn’t know that then!). I told them I was HIV+. I was offered the job with a 3-month probationary period.
During the probationary period I had to have a foot operation and had to take a week off which meant that my probationary period was extended to 4 months.
And then I was admitted to hospital as an emergency with sarcoidosis of the lungs. I was off work for 6 months. Whilst I was off work I was obviously talked about by the managers because when I got back to work they all knew. I felt really uncomfortable. My direct supervisor was great though. And the Health & Safety Manager took me to one side and told me that as a trained first aider he knew everything he had to do if I was injured. Lower management was great. I was put on to lighter duties, working on the polishing bench where I was given PPE to make sure my breathing wasn’t affected.
And then came Covid. I was on the vulnerable/shielding list and was furloughed from work. During the 3 months I was away I didn’t have a single communication from my employers. When I eventually went back into work production had changed because of the drop in orders. I was moved to manufacturing, under a different Production Manager. He knew I had a lung disease and I assumed he knew I was HIV+. I never discussed it with him. I was put to work in the dustiest of environments – the prep room, where all the fiber glass parts are sanded down. Even with a dust mask I could feel my breathing was being badly affected. I complained to my supervisor and he said that he had been told he was not allowed to move me. Eventually my breathing got so bad that I had to leave.
Now I’m a full-time carer for my disabled daughter."