Working with Someone Who Has HIV or AIDS

Even though improved therapies are helping more and more people with HIV disease live longer and healthier lives, the AIDS epdemic continues to grow. Therefore, chances are increasing that you will be working with a person who has HIV or AIDS. Or perhaps you already work with such a person and wonder if you may be at risk.

How Is It Transmitted?

The human immune deficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). People who are HIV-positive or "have HIV" carry the virus in their bodies but do not have the symptoms of AIDS, and they may not have them for many years. HIV can be transmitted by anyone who is HIV-positive or who has AIDS, but only in these ways:

  • by unprotected sex,
  • by sharing hypodermic needles,
  • from mother to baby before birth,
  • among health care workers, through accidental contact with HIV-positive bodily fluids, or
  • by receiving a tainted blood transfusion (mostly before 1984).

How Is It Not Transmitted?

You cannot get HIV from:

  • touching,
  • sharing food or eating utensils,
  • mosquito bites,
  • sharing restrooms or drinking fountains, or
  • sharing office space or equipment, such as headphones and telephones.

It's Not Like Catching a Cold

It is important to understand that there is no documented case of HIV being transmitted through normal workplace contact. This is why most states have laws protecting the rights of people with HIV and AIDS to work as long as they are capable of working.

It's Up to You

All people deserve to be treated with respect, including people with HIV and AIDS. And remember, if you don't do the things that can transmit HIV, you won't get HIV.

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