January 14, 1997 in City

Aids Stereotypes Must Be Erased

Anne Windishar/For The Editorial

A recent story from the Boston Globe showed that corporate America has made great strides in dealing with AIDS and HIV in the workplace.

That means we’re halfway there.

But Americans still have a long way to go in erasing stereotypes about people with AIDS or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and in overcoming misinformation on how the disease is spread.

But any sign of progress is encouraging.

In the 15 years since the AIDS epidemic first was identified, businesses across the country have changed the profile of their human relations departments. Progressive policies addressing the unique circumstances of HIV and AIDS patients are becoming commonplace - everything from protecting the privacy of employees to providing flexible hours for those who must make regular doctor visits.

It wasn’t long ago when such measures were unheard of. People with HIV or AIDS lived in fear their employers would discover their illness and fire them. Too often, the fears became reality.

Now, while there’s more protection than before, misinformation still persists. Managers and co-workers still are leery of people with HIV or AIDS. It will take vigilant education efforts to lower the level of fear and replace it with understanding.

Schoolchildren across the country are learning about HIV and AIDS and how they are transmitted. Children often know more than their parents do, even though adults are likely to have to deal with the issue long before their children.

That’s why education must go hand in hand with new policies in the workplace. Employees must learn there is no risk in sitting next to an HIV-positive co-worker, using his phone or even sharing a coffee cup.

HIV is transmitted only through blood or sexual fluids, by sharing needles with an infected person or by being born to an HIV-positive mother. That’s it. Casual contact - like you’ll find at work - poses no risk.

The greatest favor individuals can do for themselves and others is to examine the underlying prejudices that feed the fear of AIDS. Researchers say many people cling to the idea that AIDS is payback for homosexuals or some sort of retribution for bad behavior. But attitudes such as these have no place in an evolved society, and they only stand in the way of progress.

With education and understanding in the workplace, people with AIDS or HIV should be and will be - treated like any other employee: valued.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Anne Windishar/For the editorial board

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