After my diagnosis back in 2013, like a lot of people living with HIV (PLHIV), I was left with a bunch of questions, things to understand and a personal journey quest to find my answers. I was also battling the black dog of depression and anxiety and trying to make sense of my diagnosis.
At the time, I quickly found that working full time wasn’t an option for me and putting my health first became my priority. Leaving work soon led me to an all too familiar situation of social isolation and withdrawal. After taking a few years off, I realised I wanted to return to work, but wanted to do this on my own terms.
I started off doing some voluntary work and I found that it was surprisingly rewarding. Not only did it allow me to break free from social isolation, I also began to form a sense of purpose. It all started with a few short courses and weekend classes and I soon found my feet again. My confidence was returning and I was participating in life again.
My most recent foray back into the workforce has been as the Project Officer for Positive Life’s HIV Work Ready Program. This is a pilot project with the aim to assist those of us living with HIV whom have been out of the workforce to find a way back into work (paid or voluntary) on your own terms and build confidence and increase your quality of life.
Whether that means gaining the skills and work experience to increase meaningful participation in the community or taking on a day or two getting back in swing of things in paid employment and or volunteer work, the goal is to work with PLHIV so that when you feel ready to return to some type of employment, you can do so with confidence.
Getting back into the workforce (paid or un-paid) can feel like an overwhelming tidal wave of change. This is especially true after an extended period out of the work force, or having spent a long time living in isolation. Set-backs or speed humps along the way are common, and in my own journey I’ve had a few. I know what it’s like.
It really helps to have someone in your corner to get you in touch with the right services for your needs. The challenge is how to continue to feel supported and maintain your resilience while not being afraid to take risks. I understand work isn’t for everyone but I know isolation serves no one either.
There are a ton of services and organisations out there looking for people with a lived experience of HIV who can offer a unique perspective. If you are interested or just curious to get an understanding of what is out there, drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on (02) 9206 2177.
IMAGE: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Assocation (c) 2016