Hernani Fermin, a 35-year-old married father, was diagnosed HIV positive two years ago.  He is a sales representative for a nationally recognized pharmaceutical company, and his hectic travel schedule is beginning to take a toll on his health.  A few weeks ago, his doctor suggested he rethink his career goals.  “You know, stress and this disease don’t mix,” Dr. Wettstein reminded him.  “Why don’t you look for something closer to home?” That evening over dinner his wife Emily suggested teaching.  Hernani had enjoyed sharing the challenging concepts of math and science with seventh graders during the 6 years he had taught in a rural school upstate.  It was only the financial demands of Kim and Kilie’s birth 7 years ago that had tempted him into the better-paying field of pharmaceuticals. Hernani sent out resumes for the next 5 weeks.  Finally, one was well received by South Hills Middle School.  They had an opening in their math department, plus a need for someone to coach after-school athletics, and they wanted to meet with him.  He hadn’t interviewed since the twins were born.  He thought about the questions normally asked-would there be some questions about his health?  Being HIV positive shouldn’t have any bearing on his ability to teach, but parents might be concerned about having him coach.  And it might disqualify him for the school’s health insurance policy.  Hernani believed in honesty, but what would happen if he revealed his HIV status?

Title: HIV Disclosure in the Workplace: Analyzing the Potential Impact on Career Opportunities


The issue of HIV disclosure in the workplace remains a complex and sensitive topic. While laws and regulations have been established to protect individuals living with HIV from discrimination, the decision to disclose one’s HIV status can still pose challenges and potential consequences for individuals seeking career opportunities. This paper aims to analyze the potential impact of HIV disclosure on career prospects, using the case of Hernani Fermin, a 35-year-old sales representative diagnosed as HIV positive, who is considering a career change from pharmaceuticals to teaching.

Legal Framework and Workplace Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provide legal protection against discrimination based on an individual’s HIV status. These laws prohibit employers from making employment decisions, such as hiring or promoting, based on an individual’s HIV status. Moreover, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to enable individuals living with HIV to perform their job duties.

However, despite these legal protections, stigma and discrimination associated with HIV still persist in various forms, including the workplace. Many individuals fear potential repercussions if their HIV status becomes known, which can lead to a reluctance to disclose their status. Consequently, understanding the potential impact of disclosure is crucial for individuals like Hernani, who are contemplating a career change.

Potential Consequences of Disclosure

Disclosing one’s HIV status can have both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, disclosure fosters an environment of trust, honesty, and transparency. It allows for employers to provide necessary accommodations, support, and resources to ensure an individual’s well-being and ability to perform their job effectively. Additionally, disclosure can contribute to raising awareness about HIV and challenging societal stigmatization.

However, there are also potential negative consequences associated with HIV disclosure. One primary concern is the potential for discriminatory behavior from employers, colleagues, or clients. Workplace discrimination can range from subtle forms of exclusion to overt acts of harassment. For individuals like Hernani, balancing the desire for honesty with the fear of potential discrimination poses a significant challenge.

The Impact of HIV Disclosure on Career Opportunities

In Hernani’s case, as he contemplates a career change from pharmaceuticals to teaching, his decision to disclose his HIV status can significantly influence his prospects. While HIV status should not affect his ability to teach or perform the responsibilities of a teacher, perceptions and prejudices may still exist among potential employers, colleagues, and parents of students.

Education institutions often prioritize the safety and well-being of their students, leading to concerns about the potential risk of exposure to HIV. As Hernani considers coaching after-school athletics, there may be heightened concerns and expectations related to physical contact and potential injury risks. Parents may express apprehension about having their children coached by someone with HIV, and some may even request an alternative coaching arrangement.

Another consideration for Hernani is the school’s health insurance policy. Although the ADA mandates that employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on their HIV status, ensuring access to healthcare and insurance coverage can still pose challenges. Hernani must weigh the potential consequences of disclosing his HIV status, as it could affect his eligibility for the school’s health insurance or lead to higher premiums.


The decision to disclose one’s HIV status in the workplace is a deeply personal and complex issue. While legal protections exist, concerns about potential discrimination and its impact on career prospects are valid. The case of Hernani Fermin highlights the delicate balance individuals must navigate when considering disclosure. Employers and society at large must create an environment that fosters inclusivity, support, and non-discriminatory practices to ensure individuals living with HIV have the same opportunities for career advancement as their peers.