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HIV and the Workplace guidelines HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV infects, and gradually destroys, a person’s immune system which protects them against infection and cancers. When a person’s immune system is damaged by HIV and their body can no longer protect them from specific illnesses we say they have AIDS. Since the introduction of Anti Retro Viral (ARV) treatments in 1996 in New Zealand, HIV has become a chronic manageable condition. At present in New Zealand: • • •

43.9 % of people living with HIV work full-time 17.8 % of people living with HIV work part time 19.9 % of people living with HIV are unemployed, retired or are students (HIV Futures NZ2)

This briefing sheet provides information to people living with HIV, about HIV in the workplace; how to manage it, legal obligations and risk management issues. HIV: The facts HIV is dangerous but easily preventable virus. HIV can be transmitted by unprotected sexual (anal or vaginal) intercourse with an infected partner, through blood transfusions, the use of contaminated needles or syringes (or other skin-piercing equipment), or transmission from an HIV positive mother to child in the womb, at birth or through breastfeeding. HIV is not transmitted by casual physical contact (such as hugging or shaking hands), through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or through sharing toilet and washing facilities. HIV is also not transmitted by using eating utensils or consuming food and beverages handled by someone with HIV. HIV is not transmittable by insect bites. For most workplaces, HIV transmission is not an issue. However, if you are a heath professional (in a surgical role or at risk of needle stick injuries) or a commercial sex worker, you are much more at risk. People living with HIVAIDS and the workplace Living with HIV will mean periods of illness, coping with side effects from antiretroviral (ARVs), and stress. There may be interruptions to work due to poor health, low energy levels, depression or anxiety. However, most people living with HIV need to work for financial reasons. People living with HIV have identified that working brings purpose to their lives, brings more social contact, and a feeling of doing something worthwhile (HIV Futures NZ2). These are all factors which can improve psychological health.

It is a big decision for a person living with HIV to disclose their HIV status. People who disclose their HIV status may risk discrimination and stigma. Gossip, visible signs of illness and explaining absence from work remain obstacles for people living with HIV who do want to work (HIV Futures NZ2). Disclosure is an issue that people living with HIV should think carefully about. It should be done in consultation with support people such as friends, counsellors and peer networks to ensure adequate support. The Privacy Act 1993 protects an individuals’ personal information from being disclosed by their employer and/or colleagues. It provides the right to confidentiality in the work place. It also provides the right by employees to access their personal information and to request corrections to it. For more information go to Employer responsibilities The Human Rights Act 1993 specifies that it is unlawful to discriminate against those with ‘an organism in the body capable of causing illness’. This means that employers cannot refuse to employ someone who has HIV or is believed to carry the HIV virus. The Human Rights Act also protects workers from abuse, neglect and harassment and outlines avenues for appeal. For more information see Employers cannot require an employee to have an HIV test unless being free of illness or disease is essential for the job. This may be the case for surgical staff or commercial sex workers. The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 promotes ‘the prevention of harm to all people at work, and others in the vicinity’. The Health and Safety in Employment Regulations Act 1995 also stipulates that workplaces are safe and healthy environments. This means that workplaces who deal with bodily fluids must take adequate safety precautions when handling and disposing of body fluids. Employees must also be provided with proper equipment to ensure they are protected against the transmission of HIV. For more information go to Organisations that can be of assistance •

New Zealand AIDS Foundation -

Human Rights Commission -

Council of Trade Unions -

Department of Labour -

Body Positive -

Positive Women -

HIV and The Workplace  
HIV and The Workplace  

HIV and The Workplace