They said that starting a relationship would be one of the most difficult parts...
But, for me, it is getting a job that has been the most stressful and difficult so far. You see, this is something my family and I have thought about from the beginning. Can I get a job? Do I have to tell my employer? Is it safe for me to do what I have always done? Do I have an ethical or moral obligation to inform those I work with? Will I face stigma or discrimination? And so on and so on...
A little background for those who don't know me... I am a teacher. I have a Master's Degree in Special Education, and a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education. I typically work with children with severe mental and physical disabilities, and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. My other work history has included extensive nannying and babysitting experience. This is how I paid my way through college.
Well, I have been looking at and applying to jobs for about a month now. I've been looking at a whole range of educational/youth opportunities, HIV/AIDS work, and nanny openings. I was basically just needing and wanting anything to get me back onto my feet again, and to put some purpose back into my life. However, this process has had its own ups and downs.
I went to one interview and awkwardly stumbled my way through avoiding their questions about why I was medically separated from the Peace Corps. After that, I realized I needed to be more prepared ahead of time to answer that question.
As I prepared for my next interview (this time for a nanny job), I struggled to decide what I would tell them. How much would I say? Should I disclose my status? Should I not? I stressed myself out. I cried. I asked the opinions of my family and friends. They all had different opinions...
It seemed that anyone with HIV or working in an HIV organization recommended "No, definitely do not tell them. There is absolutely no reason that you need to tell them, and it could hurt your chances of getting the job if you did."
On the other hand, those who do not have HIV, leaned more towards the, "I really think you should tell them. As parents, they have a right to know who is spending all day with their kids."
Another comment that had been made weeks earlier pounded in my head "I would flip out if I found out that my kids' nanny had HIV!" (This hadn't been meant to hurt me, but it did. It actually had caused me to give up on my job search for a few weeks.)
Interesting enough, those who have been "at risk" for HIV (but ended up not being HIV+) fell somewhere in the middle with their opinions, and suggested I "feel it out, and just decide if I feel comfortable enough with the family to tell them".
I stressed and I stressed and I stressed some more. I didn't want to tell them my HIV status. I didn't think it was necessary. And I did think it could hurt my chances of getting the job. But, at the same time, I felt guilty for "hiding" it or "lying" about it. And I felt bad about having my friends and family thinking that I should have to tell. This has been one of the first times we haven't really all agreed on things.
Finally, I made the decision to go with the advice of HIV+ persons who have been through this, who have dealt with the stress, and stigma, and discrimination in the past. I did not tell. I got the job. I just finished my second day of work.
Do I still feel a little guilty and uneasy? Yes. Do I think I made the right decision for me right now? I hope so...
What do you think?
I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.