We Need More Access to Better Employment Opportunities

Mark Misrok, NWPC's Board President, wrote the following introduction for a World AIDS Day 2017 special community publication on HIV and employment from Amida Care (NYC), HIRE ME!: End AIDS with Jobs

We who are living with HIV in NYC share something in common with those at highest risk of new HIV transmissions. Both groups have experienced unequal access to the economic and employment opportunities in our city. These barriers are seldom discussed and need more attention.

Now more than ever, people living with HIV (PLWH) in New York get the medications and health care we need and are healthier than ever, if we can stick with our treatment and take care of ourselves. More of us get housing support and other services, since eligibility criteria for PLWH have opened up for HASA (HIV/AIDS Services Administration) in NYC’s Human Resources Administration.

However, too many New Yorkers living with HIV feel trapped in poverty, with limited opportunity to build futures that are economically secure. For some of us, not working allowed us to focus on improving our health and well-being. Now many of us find that getting help to land jobs that we want may be the only way to escape poverty, build financial security, and improve our quality of life. To consider work and plan for employment, however, PLWH need to know that their housing will be safe and that other needed supports will be reinstated if their attempt to work doesn’t work out.

Our friends, family, and neighbors in communities most at risk for HIV confront many kinds of discrimination and other barriers to quality education and employment opportunities. For many of us, our unmet employment needs connect directly to a range of physical and mental health risks, including HIV. Expanding access to a full range of employment supports is an essential investment in the health and well-being of everyone.

It should not be difficult for us to learn about our broadest range of possibilities for work and careers. Many of us need and should be able to obtain employment-related services, training, and resources that improve our chances of getting jobs we want – and help us to succeed in the work lives we choose.

We’ve learned that addressing the impact and risks of HIV requires more than simply providing access to meds and health care. These days, more programs help people not just to survive, but to thrive. This special publication by Amida Care and its partners highlights information and resources that many of us need to better understand our options, increase our access to job opportunities, and achieve the career goals we choose for ourselves. Our efforts also contribute to the advancement of New York State’s pioneering goal to End the Epidemic by 2020.

Mark Misrok, MS Ed, has lived with HIV for over 30 years. He co-founded the National Working Positive Coalition in 2003 and serves as President of its Board of Directors. Mark provides education, training, and technical assistance on policy and program development to improve responsiveness to the employment needs of people living with or at risk for HIV.

Click here to view the full publication.

HIV Stigma as a Public Health Issue:
Increasing Employment Opportunities for those Living with HIV

By Allison Nichol, Co-Director, Center for HIV Law & Policy (CHLP)

CHLP Co-Director Allison Nichol blogs about two important new publications from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that serve as guides to the rights of people living with HIV in an employment context.

Many in the HIV advocacy community would agree that the persistent stigma attached to HIV is, in and of itself, a public health issue. Fear of being stigmatized or being subjected to discrimination can be a powerful force in dissuading people from seeking testing and starting and remaining in treatment. This fear of stigma, rejection, and disclosure leads some to remain under or unemployed. This is particularly true of those who have been unemployed for a long period of time due to their HIV or another disability. The prospect of having to explain a long disability-related gap in employment either on a resume or in an interview can increase the stress of an already daunting return to work process. In addition, some employees with HIV will remain underemployed or fail to request a needed accommodation or change in their work environment because they fear the consequences of what they believe will be required in disclosure of their HIV status in the workplace. At a time when so many people with HIV can and desire to re-attach or remain attached to the workforce and when simple accommodations can allow individuals with HIV to continue to thrive and succeed in the workplace alongside their HIV-negative peers, a fundamental understanding of the rights and responsibilities of those with HIV and their employers is more important than ever.


Recommendations to Increase Employment Opportunities
for People Living with or at Greater Risk for HIV

Poverty, unemployment, and underemployment are key social and economic determinants of health, and critically influence outcomes across the HIV care continuum. The employment provisions of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 will require definition of measurable objectives and timelines established for Federal agency activities, to a) prevent unnecessary loss of employment, and (b) reduce poverty, unemployment and underemployment among people living with and at higher risk for HIV.

There is no single Federal agency that can alone be responsible for meeting the employment needs of people living with or at greater risk for HIV. Lead Federal agencies needed to coordinate and maximize resources to increase access to employment opportunities and vocational services for people living with or at higher risk for HIV include HHS (HRSA/HAB, CDC, SAMHSA, CMS), DoEd (Rehabilitation Services Administration), DOL (Employment and Training Administration, Office of Disability Employment Policy), and HUD (OHAH). Each is needed to explore its role and focus efforts contributing to implementing and achieving the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020.


About NWPC...

The National Working Positive Coalition is a coalition of individuals living with HIV, service providers, researchers, and advocates who are committed to improving the financial and personal wellbeing of individuals living with HIV and AIDS. To achieve this goal we (a) promote research to better understand the financial needs and complex challenges facing individuals with HIV; (b) promote the development and evaluation of effective practices in employment services and (c) advocate for work options and access to financial resources that are most consistent with the personal and health needs of individuals living with HIV. READ MORE

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