From the TUC

World AIDS Day: Working with HIV

01 Dec 2011, by Guest in Equality

World AIDS Day30 years on from the first officially reported cases, HIV remains a serious concern in the UK. Next year we expect the numbers of people living with HIV in the UK to reach 100,000.

Health Protection Agency UK statistics show that 1 in 20 gay and bisexual men and approaching 1 in 20 black Africans are living with HIV. These are communities that already face discrimination and barriers to accessing services, but will also feel the impact of the current economic and political climate.   

The Government’s focus is on work as a route out of poverty. With high unemployment, finding a job is difficult enough for anybody at the moment.  HIV can add further hurdles relating to health and stigma and discrimination; approximately 50% of people living with HIV are unemployed. Recent welfare reforms have further complicated their situation, particularly the replacement if Incapacity Benefit with Employment Support Allowance. These difficulties will only increase as more people living with HIV try to return to work.

For those in work, it is not always easy. NAT’s employment research with City University found that 1 in 5 gay and bisexual men who had disclosed their HIV status at work had experienced discrimination, with 40% of this group thinking they had lost their previous job as a result of discrimination. Clearly trade unions have a vital role in supporting people living with HIV in the workplace. However it is not all bad news – more than half of respondents said HIV had no impact on their working lives, and improvements in treatment meant the majority of respondents had not taken any HIV-related time off in the past year.

Improvements in treatment have not been matched by improvements in public awareness. Last year NAT commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a survey looking at public attitudes to HIV in the UK. Three decades on, knowledge about HIV is still worryingly low among the general public.

The survey found that one in five people don’t realise HIV is transmitted through sex without a condom between a man and a woman. The same proportion did not know that HIV is passed on through sex without a condom between two men.  To mark World AIDS Day this year NAT is asking everyone to ‘ACT aware’ and find out more about HIV. To find out more visit: www.worldaidsday.org

GUEST POST: Eleanor Briggs is Assistant Director of Policy & Campaigns at National AIDS Trust, the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. She is speaking at a TUC seminar to mark World AIDS Day at Congress House in London.