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World Aids Day 1 December 2021

As today marks World Aids Day, we would like to put our focus on the link between HIV, AIDS and discrimination.

At the end of 2020, approximately 38 million people globally were living with HIV, with 1.5 million newly infected that year, and approximately 680,000 people dying from AIDS-related illnesses.

Many long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS, who had to live during the 70s and 80s, are now struggling with PTSD because of the traumatising experiencing they witnessed and endured.  During this period, the prognosis, once contracting the disease, was a few years and, in some cases, a few months.

A report published by the United Nations just yesterday found that only one in two people know that HIV cannot be transmitted by sharing a bathroom.  This has made the UN realise that, despite it being more than 40 years since the AIDS epidemic began, people are still lacking the basic facts about how HIV is transmitted, which will continue to fuel stigma and discrimination.

Well-known people who have HIV also battle with HIV stigma, as many of them fear losing their jobs, and not being able to work in their industry again.  Arguably, Freddie Mercury is the biggest celebrity who contracted HIV.  Despite Freddie being an internationally acclaimed musician, he kept his diagnosis private until the day before his death.  Another person is Billy Porter (an American actor, singer and author), who is best known for performing on Broadway.  He was diagnosed with HIV in 2007 but kept his status quiet out of fear over how the entertainment industry would react.  It was when the Covid-19 pandemic hit that he decided to share his status with the caption, “The truth is the healing.  And I hope this frees me”.  Queer Eye co-host Jonathan Van Ness was diagnosed at the age of 25 but did not reveal his diagnosis until seven years later.

In the UK, the Equality Act 20210 quite rightly recognised HIV as a disability from the point of diagnosis, regardless of whether or not the virus has yet started to make an impact on the individual’s physical health.  The protection this affords rolls into many aspects of employment.  For example, when applying for a job, in opportunities for training, promotion, benefit provision and in the way a person is treated in general by their employer and their colleagues.  People with disabilities are entitled to be afforded all reasonable adjustments from their employer. This could mean taking time off work for clinic appointments, changes to the overall number of hours worked, changes to start or finish times and changes to duties.