HIV disclosure in the workplace amongst public service workers in Zambia
With a prevalence of 14.3% among the 15-49 years age group, HIV/AIDS still constitutes a significant challenge in Zambia. In order to respond to the impact of HIV/AIDS within the workplace, government ministries have developed HIV-focused workplace policies and programmes that provide HIV/AIDS services. However, despite their availability, the number of employees accessing the services, especially those targetting HIV positive workers remains low. The fear (either perceived or real) of disclosing an HIV positive status is one likely reason for the low uptake of services. HIV-positive status disclosure is an important public health goal as it can create opportunities for an individual to access information and social and medical support, and this will affect career and workload related decisions. This exploratory, qualitative study aims to identify and describe the HIV-disclosure experiences of 12 openly HIV-positive Zambian public sector workers living in Lusaka and working in four Zambian Ministries. Both male and female public sector workers were interviewed. The participants’ experiences of disclosing their HIV positive status in the workplace were explored in depth in this study. With the aim of providing those responsible for overseeing and managing the Zambian public sector HIV workplace initiatives with some practical recommendations regarding the disclosure support needed by HIV-positive public sector workers. The study found that whilst participants had an initial fear of disclosing their HIVpositive status in the workplace, their HIV disclosure actually proved to be very beneficial. Not only did it allow their health-related needs (such as accessing medication and visiting a doctor) to be met, but their disclosure also encouraged others to also disclose their status. The recommendations are are aimed at creating a supportive working environment for people living with HIV within the Zambian public service, and offering suggestions to their managers on how best to support the process of disclosure amongst their staff.