What Employers Can do for World AIDS Day

Today, December 1, 2016, is World AIDS Day, a day that gives the world an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV and to support the over 40 million people across the world infected with the virus. With so many people living with HIV, it is difficult for the epidemic to not affect companies and workers- an estimated 26 million with HIV are between the ages of 15 and 49, the prime working years of life. So how does HIV/AIDS affect the workforce, and what can employers do about it?

HIV's Effect on the Workforce

More often than not, HIV/AIDS has a dramatic impact on those closest to the individuals suffering from the disease, including their coworkers and employers. As mentioned previously, the majority of people with AIDS are of prime working age, and the emotional impact of losing a colleague can affect the productivity and morale of a company's workforce for a long time.

Additionally, the death of an employee with HIV/AIDS reduces the overall talent pool for companies to choose from, resulting in companies having to hire younger, less experienced personnel. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs summed up the overall effect of employees with HIV/AIDS in the workplace with the following chart:

Source: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division - The Impact of AIDS (http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/AIDSimpact/7_Chap_IV.pdf)

How can Employers Help?

All employers have an opportunity to help employees with HIV/AIDS, as well as their coworkers. Many employees see their office as more than just a paycheck, relying on their supervisors and coworkers for support as much as they do their friends and family. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPS) are designed to help workers deal with personal issues that affect their health, well-being, and work performance.

These programs are offered at no cost to the employee and play a vital role in helping employees with HIV/AIDS manage their condition. They also provide a great support system for coworkers closest to the HIV/AIDS-infected employee.

Because everything discussed with EAP providers is confidential from the employer, having an EAP in place at your company is a great way to foster a positive and welcoming environment for all employees. Also, because employer contributions to the health and wellbeing of employees with HIV/AIDS is highly beneficial, it is important to note that workplace discrimination on the basis of HIV status is illegal under the following laws:

  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

HIV/AIDS in today's workplace is a critical issue, as it can have a dramatic impact on productivity, company morale, and healthcare costs. To positively affect the health, happiness, and well-being of all of your current and future employees, consider enrolling in a corporate health and wellness course, such as the Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist program.

It offers in-depth knowledge about best practices in employee healthcare, and it can be tailored specifically to your unique needs and corporate culture on productivity and healthcare costs. But the workplace can also play a crucial role in combating this disease.To learn how you can help, visit worldaidsday.org.