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Disclosure- Part One/Workplace

This will be the first of four articles that will look at HIV disclosure and my personal struggles with it in four areas of my life, work, romantic relationship, family and disclosure to self.

My first journey begins with how disclosure affected my job.

It began with me sitting across from supervisor who wanted some answers as to why I seemed to called in sick or every several months I put in half a day as I had to leave the office for one reason or the other.

It was tricky as I was running out of excuses of telling my boss why I was late for work. How many times could I use the 'I didn't hear the alarm clock excuse' or that the half days I put in was for a family emergency when it would have been so much easier to tell her that in actuality I had an appointment with my HIV doctor.

But to do that would have meant I had to do the one thing that I was so fearful of and that was to disclose my status at the workplace as well as to come out of the closet. I was always a person who kept work separate from my personal life, like one would keep the corn on their plate from touching their mash potatoes. i just didn't want them to merge.

For me at that time it was worth getting written up than to disclose my secret.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has struggled with this issue. It's hard enough to disclose your status at work but when it involves your livelihood then you wonder if it's worth the risk.

Although there's laws on the book stating the illegality of discrimination in the workplace it can still make for a passive/aggressive hostile environment especially when you're dealing with people who have bypassed the chapter on discrimination. Plus the stigma can be so intense that a hostile work environment is created and you wonder is it worth it. Not to mention the stress it places on your health.

The doctors were not so helpful either as the particular clinic I was seen at the time only had one HIV doctor who had limited hours. And if you weren't quick enough you were stuck with afternoon times. So the art of negotiating with him was limited and it almost seemed my other choice was to simply not go which for me wasn't a road I wanted to take.

Frankly at the time of my former employment I just didn't want my business being the latest office gossip. I didn't want to deal with people ignorance on a daily basis or to have everyone surround me with chicken soup as I let a cough escape.

In my case i eventually told my status as I was alerted to the fact that my job was now on the line. Although they were sympathetic, they stuck to the employee manual and let me have the, "If I do it for one then I have to do it for others" speech. 

I eventually moved on.

Now that I'm in a different place both job-wise and mentally I'm able to mesh the two together. It was easy as at my new job I wasn't the only one who had this disease so they had a sense of understanding. it makes a difference when you see your doctor or any other specialist you have to go to. But I know that I won't be here forever and will have to go through the experience again.

But I'll worry about that when I get to that fork in the road. Luckily I'm at a place where I feel comfortable making my status known, but for others it remains difficult. It's just like a new relationship. People who have HIV may ask themselves, do I tell them at the interview or do I wait until I'm hired or better yet wait until I'm passed my probation period. Or do i keep it to myself and put in my 9 to 5, knowing my virus doesn't take time off.

I wish I had an easy answer as my story is different from others. It's a hard balance when you're dealing with your health and income. A puzzle, similar to what comes first, the chicken or the egg and in many people case, my health or my finance?

It's just one of the aspect of disclosure that makes having HIV so difficult. It's not just about the pill.


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Comments on Aundaray Guess's blog entry "Disclosure- Part One/Workplace"

Thank you for sharing this. I work in the medical field and was terrified of disclosing to coworkers. I finally did to a select chosen few. I have never regretted it and I feel that my bravery and honesty actually enhanced the relationship I have with my coworkers. Looking forward to your next blog.

Anyone who has HIV and is working should make sure they know and understand their rights under the Family and Medical Leave act (FMLA 1993)

The FMLA provides a means for employees to balance their work and family responsibilities by taking unpaid leave for certain reasons. The Act is intended to promote the stability and economic security of families as well as the nation's interest in preserving the integrity of families.

The FMLA applies to any employer in the private sector who engages in commerce, or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, and who has 50 or more employees each working day during at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

The law also covers all public agencies (state and local governments) and local education agencies (schools, whether public or private). These employers do not need to meet the "50 employee" test. Title II of FMLA covers most federal employees, who are subject to regulations.

Just Google "FMLA" and you can find if you meet the criteria for taking advantage of this workplace right.

kidding!!!! NO ONE SHOULD EVER EVER EVER DISCLOSE AT PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S WRONG....a he/she transfer exec top dog did at company in midwest and now they fired him/her!!!! NO PRACTICAL REASONS to disclose at White, Nicole Thomposon---THEY BOTH WILL TELL U!!! NO NO NO NO !!!

Thanks for the insigtful article. There is no easy answer, as I myself put it to my family I can either take the time to keep my Dr. appoitments or keep my job. First of all the job is very important to live, however if I don't go to the Dr. I don't get my med's and then I really don't live. I've never disclosed at the work place but have thought of it and that scares me worse than telling my grown children, which was very hard. I keep losing jobs due to the time that I have to take off to attend appoitments as they usually fall in the first 90 days probationary period, and I would never tell someone that I just met and don't have a feel for the company and their work place enviorement and values of privacy. I live in a right to work state and most employers don't care they just want a body in the chair. These have been my experience's.

I believe the choice to disclose to anyone is a personal choice. Since I went public with my status my life has been so much easier. The fear of hiding it was gone. The fear of being ostracized by everyone, never happen. I did not lose my job. I was profiled on my school webpage as a success story. I have spoken in front of groups of 100 plus. I have had nothing awarded to me out of sympathy, but rather courage. I think the stigma associated with the disease still makes it tough for many to have full disclosure, but the more we are honest about our status, the less the stigma (hopefully gone altogether) will be. Its a bridge that needs crossing, like coming out in the 1980's, or being in and interracial relationship during the 1960's.

Okay, as the author stated in the article, everyone's situation is unique and I believe that the area a person lives in has an effect as well. I had a job at a school and I disclosed my status and was fired. Now I've been working at a new job that I've been at for over a year now and luckily my health is excellent but I have chosen not to disclose my status due to my past experience with doing so. All in all, everyone's situation is different.

I agree with your statement as when we discuss disclosure of our status we're all going to have different stories. I was in a case where my job was at risk especially when I was on blood thinners for an HIV related issue with my leg. For those who have been on blood thinners, you have to get weekly blood counts to get the right levels which can't always happen based on your work schedule-so imagine having to come up with an excuse each week!
But for those who have disclosed it's good to hear your story as it may help others but also I hope through the disclosure articles we see that it's one area of HIV that our paths diverge based on who we are and our experiences.

disclose for a number of reasons....for those like Louganis (millionaire 5 Olympic Gold records) or Michael Johnson (billionaire athlete/entrenpeur) or Arthur Ashe (don't forget bout him-tennis star) it is easy for them, they have nothing to lose...but the average rinky dink Joe/Joette, DO NOT DISCLOSE AT EMPLOYMENT!!! Said it once, said it a thousand times, nothing good will come of this more often than not...even the bloggers at POZ all have professional jobs protected because they work in the field, but there is no laws that will protect the average JOE/JOETTE and the challenges of being found out are discrimination, job loss and grief to name a few!!!

Disclosure has its own effects. I lost my job in 2003 but that gave me courage to go public and join the forces in the prevention and advocacy. what ever situation disclosure is a step towards better life in my view.

Yes, everyone's situation is different...but even in major cities where the norm is to be out, be gay, be proud, etc...the social mood is still prevalent that HIV stigma is not in my backyard...there's a whole new attitude exists that whatever happens to the older gays when they get older and no longer viable..same thing exists with the HIV's not enough to say that "I had this for 25 years" or "me for 15 years and still standing" ...coming out at work about this particular condition is a my view.

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This page contains a single entry by Aundaray Guess published on February 14, 2012 3:36 PM.

HIV and the Black Community was the previous entry in this blog.

Disclosure and Dating is the next entry in this blog.

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