On the issue of disclosure… ordered or voluntary:
Im wondering who out there has faced stigma based on their status either be from impairments which caused workplace issues or discrimination from others. Ive wondered about this for some time, I dont work anymore but due to my own choice, Im wondering if any others are in the same boat and at a crossaroad
This might be a long response, albeit in summary of 23 years, but it will give you a clear idea.
I tested positive while active duty in the Army, March 1987. I was given orders to alert my chain of command upon arrival at Ft. Knox, KY. Within less than 90 days of my arrival they had leaked the information to the rest of the unit… 639 other soldiers knew something they had no right to know… and they all had friends assigned to the surrounding units. I could easily be pointed in a crowd. Stigma, in that environment is not a strong enough word to describe the hell on Earth I was subjected to at the hands of others. I was daily harrassed and ostricized, I was written up and served article 15 (punishments under the uniform code of military justice) for things I did not do. They created a paper trail five miles long and hung me with it.
The only person, besides those I was ordered to tell, who knew I had tested positive was my mother. She told everyone in the family, she told personal friends of hers, she told her co-workers, she had even written a letter to the editor of one of our local newspapers. Everyone she had told repeated this to others they had known. I came home from the Army to find that she had sold my belongings and rented out my room, effectively treating me as though I had already died. I discvoered that every person I had thought was my friend had vanished. Between the Army and my family my life had been effectively erased. I found myself living with total strangers. Stigma is an understatement, a gross misrepresentation of the truth.
Twenty years in costumer service, and no matter where I had found myself working, the employer always managed to find out because of someone who knows my family members and the story they had told. I have lost countless jobs as a direct result, each time hoping a new employer does not find out.
Now here we are twenty three years later. Those people did not want to know me then, nor did they want to grant any measure of support or assistance, so they do not know me now. The only family I have is my wife and my children. My wife's parents are supportive and caring… although they live in another country altogether. I have minimal friends and limited contacts as I prefer the solitude and privacy of a reasonably reclusive life away from work. I rarely have guests in my home as it is the only sanctuary I have where my blood is not an issue.
Yet now, it is I who have overcome adversity on a large scale. I have rebuilt my life to what I want it to be. I am happily married and I have fathered three healthy children who do not have HIV. I have infected Not a Single soul, and thankfully, mercifully, I am one of the fortunate one percent of non-progressors. I will admit to having continued issues with employers. I am currently in the process of changing my career field… but the new employer performs a thorough background check, and already this has become an issue. The good news is that they are going to allow me to work. I have had lengthy conversations with a representative in the company's safety department to that end. I find it frustrating that it is so difficult to maintain some semblance of a state of privacy and anonymity. It is equally frustrating that I can never seem to get far enough ahead to move away from this area where my family had done so much damage. The ironic part of that particular fact is that every single one of them have moved away from here after leaving such a horrendous mess in their wake.
Stigma…? There is not a word to describe what I have survived. Crossroads…? There is a crossroad at every intersection spaced only a block apart. The trick is to know which way to turn… and that for me, is usually the road less travelled and sparsely populated.
Whether you are contemplating disclosure for the hope of support or sympathy, or such disclosure is ordered through military channels, know that once disclosed, what is said can never be unsaid. The damage incurred as a result is real and irreversible. One person is all it takes to completely annihilate your privacy and personal security.