Diversity & Inclusion

Making the workplace safe for employees living with HIV

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The recent promising news about Covid-19 vaccines is in sharp contrast to the absence of a vaccine for HIV, despite decades of research. Unlike Covid-19 with a single viral isolate that shows minimal diversity, HIV circulates in a wide range of strains that so far have proven impervious to a single vaccine.

Fortunately, more people are living with HIV than ever before thanks to safe, effective antiretroviral therapy.  When people living with HIV achieve and maintain viral suppression by taking HIV medication as prescribed, they can stay healthy with essentially no risk of transmission. A growing body of clinical evidence expresses this state as HIV Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U).

It is incumbent upon employers to create safe, welcoming workplaces for employees living with HIV. The numbers explain why this is urgent. In 2019, there were approximately 38 million people across the world with HIV.

In the U.S., about 1.2 million people live with HIV today: 14 percent of them (1 in 7) don’t know it and need testing. And like Covid-19, HIV has a disproportionate impact on Blacks, Hispanics and Latinos, as well as gay and bisexual men.

IBM has been working with our strategic partners like SAP on how we advance our shared values around diversity and inclusion.

For example, IBM in partnership with SAP, German and Austrian AIDS Associations, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, have developed the #workingpositively campaign. The program invites employers to be visible role models in their support for employees living with HIV.

#workingpositively is a simple, non-monetary pledge (see graphic) that organizations can take on behalf of their employees living with HIV. To combat fear, stigma and misinformation, inclusive organizations welcome employees living with HIV, honor their privacy, promote community engagement, and ensure they are supported and respected in the workplace.

This initiative began in Germany in 2019, and since then has seen more than 100 companies sign on.

#workingpositively will be rolled out in the U.S. officially on December 1, 2020, as part of World AIDS Day.

Inclusive employers know that creating welcoming workplaces across a wide spectrum of workforce diversity is not only the right thing to do, but also good business practice.

For further information please visit http://www.workingpositively.hiv

Bridget van Kralingen is Senior Vice President, Global Markets, and Senior Executive Sponsor of the LGBT+ community at IBM.

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