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Case Study

Anonymous (UK)

"I was working in the NHS when I was diagnosed HIV+ in 2003. I was in final year social work student placement in another work setting. I was a late diagnosis and was quite ill, in hospital for 3 months. My teacher/supervisor knew some people living with HIV so she was very supportive when I told her and she anonymized anything relating to my condition which had to be reported in my student place of work."

I was so ill that I had to have 6 months off work. My employers were very supportive and continued to pay me full pay. After the 6 months, I was very keen to get back to work and even though I was offered a return-to-work programme I decided to go back full time. But it was too much and I did have to do a staged return for 6 months. And after that I was still allowed time out for medical appointments. All in all it was a very positive experience.

I’ve now had various jobs within the health and social care sector and I’m never open about my status, but always share that information once I’m in the job and I’ve always received full support around whatever reasonable adjustments I may require.

I now also volunteer as a peer mentor to some other HIV+ women and sadly not all of them have had the same good experience in their workplace. For many there is a great fear around the need to keep the information secret, concerns about potential breaches of confidentiality. Many are also completely unaware of the employment rights as People Living with HIV. Given the impact that HIV can have on mental wellbeing, the two should be considered alongside each other as highly stigmatized conditions which workplaces need to be more supportive of.