Managing AIDS in the Workplace

Managing AIDS in the Workplace

Managing AIDS in the Workplace

Managing AIDS in the Workplace


Events take on special meaning when they touch us personally.

I remember quite clearly when AIDS, as a health issue, a human issue, and a business issue, took on that kind of meaning for me.

The year was 1982. Several employees asked for permission to distribute literature about AIDS in the lobby of our headquarters building in San Francisco. I was stunned by the reaction they got from many of their co-workers. Some were frightened they might contract the disease just by talking to someone who was concerned about the issue. Others assumed that the employees distributing literature must be gay, because AIDS had been identified as primarily a disease striking gay and bisexual men.

I didn't know a good deal about AIDS at that time. But I understood two things right away. First, this was an issue that would touch all of us, and second, as a company executive, it was my responsibility to help set standards about how we would respond.

I asked to join the group and invited other senior managers to work with us. For several days, we took turns staffing an information booth in our lobby at lunchtime, handing out information about AIDS and how it is—and is not—transmitted.

That was six years ago. Since then, AIDS has become an epidemic and taken a terrible toll. We have lost many friends. As employers we have also had to confront serious business consequences as well—the loss of talented employees, the enormous . . .

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