chapter  3
15 Pages

Empowerment or Disempowerment: The Limits and Possibilities of Workplace AIDS Policy

This chapter examines the development and implications of AIDS/HIV policies within organizations as these relate to the treatment of HIV seropositive employees. In Britain, as in many other societies, the advent of HIV and AIDS has always been accompanied by an element of moral panic. The disease was widely perceived as the result of morally questionable behaviour — either male homosexual promiscuity or injecting drug use — and its very potency marked it out in the public imagination as one of the more serious threats of the late twentieth century. While the intensity of this panic has now diminished, it has not disappeared. Indeed, HIV/AIDS continues to pose a substantively different set of problems from other life-threatening or terminal diseases, involving as it does complex layers of meaning, intimately connected with sexuality and morality, with which many people who think of themselves as ‘normal’ feel distinctly uncomfortable. This situation has been exacerbated by the very novelty of the disease, its sudden ‘discovery’ and apparently incurable effects: new hazards, especially those for which there is no immediate remedy, generate significant levels of fear and anxiety which, in turn, fuel perceptions of risk (Adam-Smith and Goss, 1993).