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Cirion Foundation

the impact of infectious diseases

Working & HIV

"HIV is not transmittable during normal social interaction. Adopting special measures for HIV-positive people should therefore be avoided. Such measures can lead to a false sense of security, discrimination and, all too often, they can encourage careless behavior."

Landelijke Coördinatiestructuur Infectiebestrijding, Hiv Protocol, 2005
(National Coordination Structure for Combating infectious diseases, HIV Protocol, 2005)

Most people with HIV can live a qualitatively good life. Thanks to treatment with a combination of HIV inhibitors (combination therapy), which have been available since 1996, HIV sufferers can function quite normally and, in principle, work just like anyone else.  

More information about the TREVI research study.
Research team: Marlies Wagener, MSc; Stefanie van Opstal, MSc; Lennert van den Dries, M.D.

Generally speaking, people with HIV can function perfectly well in the labor market. Unfortunately, however, they often encounter ignorance, misunderstandings, apprehension and even discrimination at the workplace. Colleagues regularly harbor an irrational fear that they could contract HIV. Moreover, some employers think that having HIV-positive employees will create difficulties for them and make them incur extra costs. It is therefore vital that both employers and employees are well informed about the realities of living with HIV. Here are the most common HIV fallacies, neutralized by the facts.

The HIV and work knowledge group

The number of newly diagnosed cases of HIV is still increasing, even in Europe. According to Stichting HIV Monitoring (HIV Monitoring Foundation), in June 2008 there were 14,960 people registered as HIV positive in the Netherlands. As the availability of effective medication has increased, a decrease has been seen in actual illness and mortality among HIV patients. However, the extent to which HIV infection affects a person’s life expectancy and plans for the future is still unclear. 

HIV often affects young people in the prime of their life and with great potential in terms of social and career opportunities. The currently available antiretroviral medication therapy (ART) is effective. Despite this, however, studies show that the participation of HIV-infected people in social and employment circles is below par. HIV infection can lead to absenteeism from work and/or unemployment and can constitute a barrier to returning to work or even to getting work in the first place.

Various factors can contribute to problems relating to HIV and work. These can include a diminished exertion capacity, the side effects of medication, difficulty managing HIV treatment at the workplace and HIV-related discrimination and stigma. Furthermore, a combination of factors can also lead to a perceived reduction in career opportunities, less confidence in the future and reluctance in taking actions to further personal development. 

Despite there being a great deal of specific knowledge among various professional groups, when it comes to work and HIV it would appear that all too often this knowledge is fragmented and not always easily accessible for patients.

A knowledge group themed “HIV and work” has been instigated as a joint initiative of the Cirion Foundation, the Hiv vereniging Nederland (HvN – the Netherlands HIV Association) and Gilead. The objective of this knowledge group is to make the available information on HIV more accessible to both employers and employees and, where necessary, develop additional modules.  

This activity is an excellent fit with the “Positief werkt” (“Positive works”) initiative of the HvN. 

Founded in 2008, the objectives of the HIV and work knowledge group are:

  • to provide a multidisciplinary forum bringing together expertise about HIV and work
  • to serve as a low-threshold vehicle for making this information accessible 
  • to further the development of expertise, where this is found to be lacking
  • to make it possible for the multidisciplinary forum/knowledge group to provide advice 
  • where necessary, to develop and disseminate information to counter the prejudices surrounding HIV and work 

The HIV and work knowledge group is a joint initiative of the Hiv vereniging Nederland (Netherlands HIV Association) and the Cirion Foundation, with financial support provided by Gilead.