Policies – A Sample

[P]olicies set the tone for an organization. They help define issues, and guide how managers and employees should act. They are an important first step in creating HIV-friendly workplaces.1

A policy statement is a plan of action that helps guide an organization. It can show an organization’s commitment to end HIV stigma. A statement that is more than an outline of legal duties can inspire and transform the environment.

The following will help get things started. It is based on and quotes extensively from a Canadian AIDS Society document called HIV/AIDS in the Workplace: The CAS Guide to Creating an HIV-Friendly Workplace Policy.

  1. Include a clear statement about your organization’s position on HIV
  2. example

    “[Name of your organization] does not discriminate against those with chronic or life-threatening illnesses, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).”

  3. Recognize the stigma associated with HIV
  4. example

    “We recognize that the stigma associated with HIV can create challenges in an organization. The following policy guidelines for handling situations related to HIV/AIDS make sure that we protect the rights of people living with HIV and address concerns that others may have.”

  5. Commit to a safe and healthy supportive environment
  6. example

    “[Name of your organization] is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy environment for everyone.”

  7. Outline the risks of HIV transmission in your organization and the procedures in place to reduce risks
  8. For example, in most workplaces, there is no risk of transmission through work activities. If this is the case with your organization, policy should reinforce that.


    “HIV is not transmitted through casual contact. The day to day activities of [name of your organization] pose no risk of transmission.”

    In situations where there is risk of contact with blood, there may be some risks which should be addressed through proper infection control procedures. There should be protocols in place that are consistent with standards for similar organizations.

    Take a look at our page Best Practices – universal precautions for some tips (see below).

    If you need more information or assistance in assessing the risk in your workplace, please contact us! We’re here to support you and your clients.

    Women and HIV/AIDS Initiative at ACT

    Email: she@actoronto.org
    Phone: 416-340-2437 x. 453

    Best Practices – Universal Precautions

  9. A statement about the right to confidentiality
  10. example

    “[Name of your organization] respects the right to confidentiality. Information about a person’s medical condition is private and will be kept confidential.”

    Go into detail about the particular ways your organization will make sure that confidentiality is respected.

  11. Acknowledge the needs of people with HIV, their right to be accommodated, and to be treated like anyone else with a life-threatening illness
  12. example

    “[Name of your organization] recognizes that, as a result of illness, people with HIV or AIDS may have special needs that should be accommodated. [Name of your organization] will treat HIV infection and AIDS like other illnesses in terms of employee policies and benefits, health and life insurance, disability benefits, and leaves of absence. People living with HIV or AIDS will be treated like those with other disabling conditions: with compassion and understanding.”

  13. A statement about the disabled employees’ and the employer’s responsibility for accommodation
  14. example

    “Employees may continue to work or return to work after a period of disability as long as they are able to perform their duties safely and in accordance with performance standards. Disabled employees are responsible for requesting an accommodation if required. The organization will respond to employees’ changing health status by providing reasonable accommodations. Supervisors and managers are encouraged to contact the Human Resources Department for assistance.”

    Note: It may be helpful to list examples of reasonable accommodation as long as the list is not prescriptive and does not keep the company from adopting new accommodations that may be developed.

  15. A statement about organizational education
  16. Organizations can play an important role in educating people about the risks associated with many illnesses. Such information helps prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. It also reduces the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease and stroke. It is best to provide this education as a routine part of ongoing employee health programs, rather than at the time when an individual has been diagnosed with HIV.


    “Recognizing the need to inform people about health and safety issues, [name of your organization] will provide education about chronic or life-threatening illnesses.”

  17. A statement about the organization’s expectations
  18. example

    “Employees, volunteers, students, board members and others are expected to continue to maintain effective working relationships with anyone involved in the organization who has a chronic, life threatening disease, including HIV.”

  19. A statement about how the organization will deal with concerns

    Many people who are not familiar with the disease are still uneasy about dealing with someone who is HIV positive. Many people with HIV are uneasy about whether they will be accepted. A supportive environment encourages everyone to talk about any concerns they may have. An organization’s policy should reinforce this openness.


    “[Name of your organization] believes in addressing people’s concerns. That includes the concerns of all individuals, including those living with HIV. Simply contact the [appropriate supervisor, office administrator, department director, employee relations manager or other qualified manager] to discuss the issue. The supervisor/manager will take reasonable steps to address any concerns, including providing education, counselling and reasonable accommodation. Contact information for a community-based HIV/AIDS organization will be provided for more information and support.”

  21. A statement about how the organization will respond if someone is inappropriate to a person with HIV
  22. This statement is extremely important, because it provides guidance for supervisors and managers in dealing with difficult situations. It should describe the consequences when employees do not respect the organization’s policy.


    “Those who refuse to work with, withhold services from, harass or otherwise discriminate against an individual with HIV infection or AIDS will be subject to the same disciplinary procedures that apply to other policy violations.”

    Policy statements need to be amended from time to time. They must keep pace with the changes occurring at the workplace.

    A more detailed policy template is available through the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development. A link to this document can be found under the Supportive environments heading on our EMPLOYMENT resource page (see below).

    It is important to make sure that a policy reflects the nature of the organization it is written for. While templates, examples and guides are helpful, the final document is stronger if it includes the special needs of your organization.


More from Shared Health Exchange

1HIV/AIDS in the Workplace: The CAS Guide to Creating an HIV-Friendly Workplace Policy,Canadian AIDS Society, online as of June 2011
2Guide to Writing an OHS Policy Statement,Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, online as of June 2011