Work

Michael Carter, Emma Standley

As well as providing an income, having a job can offer you a structure to your day, a wider focus to your life, contact with other people, and increased self-worth. Having objectives and goals gives you something to work towards and a great sense of achievement.

Many people with HIV will already have years of experience in the workplace. But there are likely to be questions that arise around working with HIV, whether you have been recently diagnosed or not. Knowing what options are available to you, your rights at work and what to do if you experience stigma or discrimination can make it easier to work after an HIV diagnosis. 

Starting work for the first time or thinking about returning to work can seem overwhelming, but with preparation and planning you can be confident about taking the first step towards pursuing your chosen career.

HIV treatment means that many people can continue to work, largely unaffected by their positive status. For some, however, living with HIV has a significant impact (direct or indirect) on their ability to continue working as they were before their diagnosis.

An HIV diagnosis is considered a disability and, as such, people with HIV are protected against discrimination at work because of their status under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland). And, whilst you may not consider HIV a disability, people with HIV are also eligible for some forms of disability support, including the ones described in this section.

An HIV diagnosis is unlikely to mean the end of your career as it is now. Many people continue working with little or no impact following an HIV diagnosis. There are a number of things you can do to limit how much HIV affects your work (see Managing HIV at work).

People’s experience of living with HIV is very varied. When you were diagnosed, whether you have been ill because of HIV, how you cope with HIV treatment, and what else is going on in your life will differ from person to person. Many people carry on working or start working  with few or no difficulties, but some people may find, or have found, their ability to work is affected and need extra support (see Reasonable adjustments at work). If you are experiencing difficulties starting or returning to work, you might consider volunteering or further study to help you make that move (see Starting or going back to work).

Knowing whether you have to disclose your HIV status to your employer – and then deciding whether you want to – are common areas of concern. It is discussed further in Disclosure: Do I have to tell my employer I’m HIV positive?. If you do disclose, it’s possible that you may encounter some difficulties in the workplace because of your HIV status; see Dealing with stigma and discrimination at work for more information. However, many people do not encounter any problems at work or have found their employers to be supportive.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.