When I was first diagnosed with HIV 23 years ago I was still an active substance user and I was not a part of the work force. Since I have been clean for 19 years I feel that in the different positions that I have had in these years it has not really made a difference for me. HIV has not really impacted me where being positive kept me from getting hired or performing my job duties. I have had jobs in food service, hospitality, and retail. All of these positions just require great customer service. Today, the tables have turned. I work at Evergreen Health in Buffalo, NY as a peer educator. I started working with both people that are HIV positive and people that have Hepatitis C. When I interviewed for this job I was told that I had the customer service background that they felt would be an asset to the agency. I believe that it was more than that. We work a lot with at risk populations and once I knew that I was being hired as a peer, (as someone with a shared life experience) I knew that there was more to it. Believe me when I say that I am not bothered by it at all. If you can imagine someone that was hopeless and helpless, that was throwing away their life one bag at a time, you will get a picture of me. I recognize how truly blessed I am for working here and for allowing me to do what I do.
My advice for others is that technically you do not have to divulge your status to an employer, how you do your job is not dependent on having HIV or not. Most importantly if you are at that point in your life where you have totally, 100% accepted your diagnosis and are able to help others with it, DO IT!!!! It is so rewarding to be able to help others that are feeling hopeless and helpless. To let others know that you can identify with them is a powerful tool to have, and all the amazing things that you can do are endless if you have the right people supporting and cheering you on. This was not my plan when I was going to college but I believe that my Higher Power has different plans for me, so I am just going to enjoy the ride. Today my HIV is a blessing!