When I told a colleague that
today World AIDS Day, and that I was going to attend a panel discussion, she
gave me a surprised look and said, ” I thought we had solved that problem,” to
which I replied that while AIDS was no longer a death sentence for everyone
infected, there were still large numbers of people infected in the world
particularly amongst women and people of color.”
Today’s program was moderated
by award winning broadcast journalist, Belva Davis. One of the panelists was Barbara
Williams from the National Coalition of Black Women, and also a senior manager
at Sun Microsystems.
I heard her make two key
points that resonated with me. The first was her belief that corporations
needed to not only think about the bottom line but needed to do the right thing
and do what’s right, by contributing ideas and resources to prevent, detect and
support treatment for people with AIDS.
The second point was that if
someone has AIDS, it impacts everyone around they are close to, so that if an employee
has an immediate family member who is infected and needs care, unless they get
the support they need from their workplace, they won’t be able to do their best
work. If they have provided any
kind of innovation in their organization they will no longer be able to focus
on their work, but will be spending most of their energy worrying about the
person who is home.
If organizations want to
create workplaces where people love to do their best work and customers love to
do business, executive leaders need to take a more holistic view of their
employees. HIV testing should be included in physical exams and wellness
This is another reason why health
care benefits and work time flexibility are so important. There does need to be
a great awareness of HIV and AIDS in the workplace and in the outside
community. Just like any other type of illness, employees with HIV and AIDS need
to have access to the right treatment so they can continue to come to work and
contribute their skills and talents.
Strong leaders are aware that
what impacts work life impacts personal life. The days are long gone when
people were faced with the impossible task of leaving all of their personal
life at home.