Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, an annual opportunity for people across the globe to celebrate our successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and reflect on the work that remains. It’s also a time to support people living with HIV/AIDS.
Thanks to major advances in treatment, the conversation about HIV/AIDS has expanded in recent years to focus not simply on medical care, but on the whole person, and employment is an important piece of the puzzle. Today, more and more people with HIV/AIDS are living healthy lives. They can and want to work, and research shows the benefits of doing so — to individuals, families, and our nation at large.
Indeed, employment offers purpose and the opportunity to live an independent, self-directed life. It also reduces reliance on publicly funded programs, such as disability benefits.
Our goal at the U.S. Department of Labor is to maintain a strong and robust workforce, one in which all people have access to good, family-sustaining jobs. Reflecting this, the Office of Disability Employment Policy represents the department on both the Federal HIV/AIDS Web Council and National HIV/AIDS Strategy Federal Interagency Workgroup, helping provide an employment perspective to domestic HIV/AIDS efforts. This year, the U.S. government theme for World AIDS Day is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability and Partnerships.”
One example of a partnership in action is ODEP’s work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing to develop a training curriculum for HIV/AIDS service providers focused on employment. Hundreds of people have taken the course to date, and early assessment results indicate that HIV/AIDS service providers better understand the value of providing employment services as a result.
ODEP also offers a suite of educational materials for individuals, employers, and service providers, including Employment and Living with HIV/AIDS: A Resource Guide, and an Employment and Living with HIV/AIDS Toolkit.
Through these and other initiatives, we at the Labor Department are proud to play a role in helping all people living with HIV/AIDS gain skills and put them to work.
Jennifer Sheehy is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy.