It should be unnecessary to have a specific policy regarding employees suffering from HIV/AIDS as the disease may be better regarded as a sickness to be covered by the employer's SICKNESS policy - although specific reference might be needed to advise employees of the fact that the employer has retained counselling and medical assistance. The ignorance and prejudice that surrounds the illness however, may make it advisable to address the problem separately.

Commentary
In view of widespread concern at the proximity of AIDS sufferers, such victims may need to be included as a category within the organisation anti-discrimination policy. Employees should be advised that those suffering from AIDS are rarely a risk to other employees. If despite informal re-assurances, an employee refuses to work alongside or to relate to an AIDS sufferer the employer should arrange an interview with a medical adviser to provide expert advice on the subject. If this is not effective it may be necessary to raise the matter under the DISCIPLINARY procedure although if there are any other means by which re-assurance can be given these may be preferable. If the employer has included AIDS sufferers as a category in a DIGNITY at WORK policy, this should be referred to, indicating that the full weight of the disciplinary procedure can be utilised. Ultimately of course, the disease may affect the performance of the employee's work, so that dismissal might need to be considered on these grounds under the normal policy for long-term SICKNESS and disability.

Employee Guidance

1. Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease which is less contagious than many other diseases. AIDS can only be generated by the Human Immune-Deficiency Virus (HIV) but even those who have the HIV virus do not necessarily contract AIDS for several years.

2. There is virtually no way that an employee who works with or alongside someone suffering from the HIV virus, is at risk of contracting the disease. An employee believing this not to be the case can apply for a counselling session with the [organisation] medical adviser.

Warning (Should employees work with sharp implements immediately adjacent to each other it is just feasible that the disease could be transmitted as a result of simultaneous cuts. Employers should take specific advice on minimising even such a remote possibility.)


3. The HIV virus (which causes AIDS) can only be spread by sexual contact, by an infected mother to her unborn child, or by blood infection (for example, by using a drug injection needle that has been used by an AIDS sufferer or someone who is HIV positive). Other than these three main contagion-risking areas, and those whose work involves piercing the skin (e.g. tattooists) or handling blood who may need to take precautions, it is not possible to contract HIV or AIDS in employment.

4. Employees who fear the risk of contagion from an HIV or AIDS infected colleague should be re-assured by the foregoing but the [Organisation] is prepared to arrange counselling sessions for anyone still concerned as set out in 2 above.

5. First Aiders who may be required to treat open wounds, etc., of HIV or AIDS sufferers will receive special training as well as having available airways for mouth to mouth resuscitation, plastic gloves and breathing masks. There is no recorded case of the virus being transmitted in this way.

6. In view of the foregoing, employees are expected to work normally with and alongside any HIV or AIDS sufferer, and to treat them as they would anyone else with a serious disease. Refusal to work with an HIV or AIDS sufferer will be regarded as a breach of the organisation discrimination and disciplinary policies to which the attention of all employees is drawn.

7. The [Organisation] appreciates the concern that there is regarding this disease but stresses that, in view of the lack of risk to fellow-employees, although it will be sympathetic to those who have concerns, it expects everyone to behave with maturity and to give HIV/AIDS sufferers normal respect. Failure to act in accordance with the requirements of this policy will be grounds for disciplinary action.


Advice
Leaflets 'AIDS at work' and 'AIDS in the Work Place' are available from the Department of Employment. Providing employees with copies, possibly backed up by a briefing by a medical expert, may assist in what can be an emotionally charged situation.

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