1) Use Accurate Language: HIV is Not AIDS
While shorthanded references to “HIV/AIDS” are common, it is important in both official messaging and informal conversations to distinguish between human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Because of the development and wide availability of antiviral treatments, most people in the United States living with HIV will not develop AIDS. Therefore, it’s important to recognize today’s reality that millions of people are living healthy lives with HIV and to not reaffirm outdated fears or stereotypes implying otherwise.
2) Be Part of the Solution: Employer-Provided Health Insurance
Employers play a crucial role in providing healthcare coverage for those living with HIV and AIDS. Increasingly, employers are ensuring that employees and covered dependents can access pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to effectively prevent the transmission of HIV. They can also work with their insurers to assess network coverage and healthcare professionals with appropriate cultural competence to administer and monitor patients on PrEP. Spotlighting these benefits during open enrollment alongside other notable features of plan offerings is not only practical. It can signify that an employer brings a comprehensive lens to the evolving needs of its workforce.
Lambda Legal provides a helpful primer for individuals on HIV and Health Insurance.
3) Understand Legal Protections for HIV and AIDS-affected Workers in the United States
According to the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division , the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – which grants civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion – includes protections for individuals living with HIV and AIDS. It also guarantees equal opportunity for these individuals in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
Employers should periodically review and refresh trainings, educational materials, and employee handbooks – especially for hiring managers, customer/client-facing staff, and supervisors – to support consistent awareness of the federal protections afforded to all those living with HIV or AIDS and those assumed or rumored to be living with HIV or AIDS. Employers should also address any flourishing rumors about a client or employee’s HIV status.
4) Support Employees in Travel and Relocation
An ever-global mobile workforce demands supportive infrastructure for employees and/or their family members who are HIV positive.* According to UNAIDS, around the world, 47** countries have HIV-related travel restrictions, namely:
1) HIV testing required for work permits.
2) HIV testing required for study permits.
3) HIV testing or disclosure required for certain permits or entry less than 90 days.
4) HIV testing required for residency permits (for stays longer than 90 days).
5) Prohibiting entry and stay for less than 90 days on the basis of HIV status.
6) Denying residency permits (for stays longer than 90 days) on the basis of HIV status.
7) Deporting non-nationals living with HIV on the basis of their HIV status.
Global employers should ensure that employees are given appropriate contacts – typically within HR – to confidentially discuss any concerns or questions about their, or their family member’s, HIV or AIDS status in relation to temporary assignment, short-term business trips, or indefinite long-term relocation. Managers should proactively note resources available as part of any relocation or travel assignments and ensure that one’s concerns or questions about travel to countries with restrictions do not negatively affect an employee’s career. Global employers may also decide to move employees who wish to leave their home countries because of punitive HIV and AIDS laws, just as they would for other employee mobility considerations.
*This information is updated as of December 2021. Many countries continue to have travel restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Employers may consider providing additional resources to employees living in countries with COVID-19 related restrictions to ensure that those living with HIV or AIDS maintain access to critical services without disruption.
**In 2021, New Zealand lifted all travel restrictions for people living with HIV. This is not reflected in the UNAIDS resource.
5) Support LGBTQ Resource Groups in HIV and AIDS-Related Programming
The first patient of the AIDS epidemic was identified in 1981 – which may very well predate some of your company or organization’s key employee resource group (ERG) leaders’ consciousness. For others in your ERG, the AIDS epidemic may continue to be a defining part of adult life. World AIDS Day and, more broadly, HIV and AIDS-themed discussions and programming can present valuable opportunities for intergenerational dialogue on how HIV and AIDS has affected the lives of ERG members , and their relationship to the broader LGBTQ community.
ERG programming might entail taking part in community and national events that bring communities together in the fight against HIV/AIDS and memorialize the lives lost to the epidemic. The National AIDS Memorial Grove is hosting their annual commemoration on World AIDS day virtually this year. Learn more about the event and encourage friends and colleagues to join.