HIV in the Workplace
Below we provide answers to many of the frequently asked questions….
What are HIV and AIDS?
- HIV spreads through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk from infected people.
- By having unsafe vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person.
- Sharing used needles and syringes.
- Having a blood transfusion prior to 1985.
- Infected women can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, or through breast feeding.
What are the symptoms of AIDS?
Since many of the signs and symptoms of AIDS can also be associated with a variety of other illnesses, make sure to consult a doctor. AIDS is a medical diagnosis made by a doctor using specific criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The only way to determine whether you are infected with HIV is to be tested.
Many of the common symptoms include:
- Constant fatigue (feeling tired)
- Rapid weight loss (10-15 pounds in less than 2 months)
- Diarrhea for more than 1 week
- Dry cough
- Red, pink, brown or purple blotches on the skin or inside the nose, mouth or eyelids
- Recurring unexplained fever, chills and night sweats
- Unexplained gynecological problems (women)
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin, or armpit
- White spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth or in the throat
- Memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders
Should I worry about getting infected if a co-worker or employee
is HIV positive?
No, HIV cannot be spread through typical casual contact. The virus cannot be spread by sharing restroom facilities, office equipment, food or utensils. It also cannot be spread through casual physical contact such as touching, hugging, shaking hands, kissing, or playing sports, even if the person is sweating.
What can you do to avoid becoming infected?
The best way to prevent becoming infected with HIV is to avoid activities where the virus can be passed on. You can lower your risk by:
- Only having sex with uninfected partners or to abstain.
- Never have unsafe sex.
- Do not share needles or syringes.
There are no special precautions to take at work under normal working conditions - unless you work in an occupation where exposure to blood and body fluids is possible. Some of these occupations include healthcare workers, emergency response personnel, and certain personal service workers. If you work in an occupation where there is an exposure risk, make sure to know how to protect yourself. Read and follow your employer's policies or contact your local or state health department.
If an accident occurs where you could be exposed to blood or body fluids, always take precautions to avoid contact such as wearing latex gloves and/or other protective clothing. Any work areas contaminated with blood or body fluids can be disinfected by using a fresh 1:10 dilution of household bleach (1part bleach to 10 parts water).
Are people with HIV and AIDS protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
According to the ADA: "An individual is considered to have a "disability" if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Persons with HIV disease, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, have physical impairments that substantially limit one or more life activities and are, therefore, protected by law." The ADA also protects persons from discrimination who are thought to be HIV positive (whether or not they really are positive) and also people who have an association or relationship with an HIV-positive individual (for example, an HIV-positive partner, friend, or relative).
No, since virus cannot be transmitted under normal working conditions, the person is entitled to their privacy and it is their choice whether to disclose this information.
Should a healthcare facility inform a patient of a healthcare worker's HIV status?
What if other employees are afraid to work with someone who is HIV positive?
Generally fear of HIV and AIDS stems from wrong information or a lack of understanding about the virus and disease. Find ways to educate the workforce so they learn the facts. Contact ARC Ohio if you would like an educational program for your organization.
Can someone be fired for having HIV or AIDS?
AIDS is legally considered a disability. Therefore, as long as an individual is capable of performing their job duties, then removing them from their job (firing, transfer to a different department or shift, laid off, or placed on disability) for having AIDS is considered unlawful discrimination. Individuals also cannot be denied promotions, raises or employment due to being infected. Companies must ensure that all policies are in compliance with state and federal laws concerning the disease.
Employees with HIV or AIDS may be able to remain productive employees for many years. Those infected with HIV may never even develop AIDS.
HIV positive healthcare workers should use appropriate infection control practices - such as double gloving for procedures - but should not be excluded from patient care unless epidemiologically identified for transmission even with appropriate precautions.
|AIDS Resource Center Ohio||937-461-2437 or Toll Free at 800-252-0827|
|Ohio Civil Rights Commission||614-466-2785|
|Ohio Department of Health||614-466-5480|
|The Ohio AIDS Hotline||1-800-332-AIDS|
|Resources on the Web:|