Fighting for stigma free workplaces

We need to create workplaces without stigma and prejudice to enable those living with HIV to lead the same lives as everyone else. Yet some people’s attitudes towards HIV are often stuck in the 1980s, with all the dated thinking and assumptions that come with it.

There is no vaccine for stigma. Thanks to major advancements in treatment and prevention like U=U, those who are living with HIV can have a normal life span and lead active working lives.

Read below for our World AIDS Day explainer on HIV in the workplace. ⬇️

What is World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st every year. It is a day to remember those we’ve lost, join in solidarity with people living with HIV today, combat stigma and transform the future for everyone by ending HIV transmissions.

What is U=U?

U=U is a term you will hear a lot more around HIV – it means Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. It means that someone with an undetectable HIV viral load on HIV treatment (ART) cannot transmit HIV. It is a game changing development, read more on the campaign here.

What legal protections do those living with HIV have at work?

The Equality Act 2010 protects disabled people at work from discrimination. For people living with HIV, this applies from the moment they are diagnosed.

This means those living with HIV cannot be harassed, bullied or discriminated against in the workplace. This can be direct discrimination, such as declining some a promotion or training due to their HIV status, or indirect discrimination, such as a blanket workplace policy that disproportionately impacts those living with HIV. It can also be someone being harassed or bullied due to their HIV status.

Employers are obliged to make reasonable adjustments for those living with HIV. HIV medication can have some side-effects such as fatigue, nausea, sleep disturbance and diarrhoea, which can sometimes require reasonable adjustments at work. Research from the National AIDS Trust found that the most common request for adjustments were for time off to attend hospital and clinic appointments, flexibility in working hours and the request to work at home occasionally.

Can someone’s HIV status be disclosed to others?

It is illegal to ask someone their HIV status whilst they are applying for a job, apart from in very specific circumstances. Disclosure of someone’s HIV status varies on individual circumstances, and should only be done on a need-to-know basis and not done without the prior consent of the employee concerned.

What is best practice for an inclusive workplace?

To ensure workplaces are inclusive and not exclusionary of those living with HIV, it is good practice to:

  • Ensure that all staff are provided appropriate training, including around confidentiality and language use
  • Make explicit references to HIV in diversity and inclusion policies
  • Ensure a clear formal grievance process is in place in case of discrimination
  • Offer reasonable adjustments proactively
  • Record any HIV related absences as “disability leave”, kept separate from sick leave
  • Raise awareness and combat stigma by marking World AIDS Day

What is the right language to use to use?

People can often inadvertently use dated language when talking about HIV, often absorbed from old tv shows or films. The most common ones are use of terms like “suffering”, or mixing up HIV and AIDS. For a helpful language guide, click here.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.

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