"I had a senior role in a large international healthcare related business with head offices in the UK. I had been working for that organisation when I was diagnosed HIV+ in 2001. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing that diagnosis with my employers but when I was subsequently diagnosed with cancer I had to tell them about that"
I had to have two operations, but I scarcely took any sick leave at all. The company and my team were very supportive of my situation at that time and so I just carried on working.
I did eventually decide to tell one colleague, my deputy, about my HIV status. I knew I could trust him; his wife was a doctor. He knew that something was up and asked me if there was a problem. I told him in the strictest confidence.
I was then diagnosed with HepC. The treatment was nasty, really nasty. I had to tell work something, so I just told them that it was treatment for a group of conditions, cancer related.
I had good relations with the whole of the HR department. We would have a good laugh together.
I had been getting treatment for verruca’s on one foot. I had private healthcare through my employers and had had two lots of treatment through them for the verrucas. The condition would improve and then the verrucas would return. I was told that the verrucas would have to be surgically removed but for this to happen the healthcare insurance company would have to give their permission. They declined. My HIV status was on my hospital records and the insurance company decided that the verrucas were HIV related.
They had phoned me to give me that information. As soon as I put the phone down I was concerned they may have outed my status at work. I felt I need to speak with HR straight away. It was a very uncomfortable and anxious time until I was able to speak with the HR Director to explain the situation to her. She was very supportive and authorized the treatment herself, choosing not to share the information any further.
I worked for that company for a further 3 years but never shared my HIV status any more widely. I knew there were senior people in the organisation who could be very judgmental and would make use of any opportunity to get rid of someone who prove to be ‘difficult’ in any way.
But I will always be grateful to that HIR Director for the calm, helpful, confidential and supportive way in which she handled that situation. That is the way this situation should always be dealt with.