Gay, Bisexual, & Lesbian Faculty, Staff &
Supporters at Columbia University

An Employee's Guide to HIV/AIDS-Related Issues at Columbia University

1995 Edition
(NB: Some information in this document may no longer be current!)

Originally issued by GABLES-CU

University Policy on HIV/AIDS
Questions & Answers
Bereavement Leave
Campus Support
University Assistance Programs
NYC HIV/AIDS Resources
Contacts for confidential discussion

University Policy for Individuals with HIV/AIDS

The University's Statement of Nondiscriminatory Policies prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified students, employees, or applicants on the basis of handicap or disability, including those with HIV/AIDS. According to the University AIDS Committee Report (January 1988), students or employees with HIV infection do not pose a threat to the health of their fellow students or colleagues in the usual course of University activities. The University also bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bereavement Leave

Regular full-time and part-time employees are granted up to three days maximum paid leave in the event of a death in their "immediate family," which includes a "member of the household of the employee." Leaves for union employees may differ; if you are a union employee, check with the Benefits Office or your local union representative for bereavement-leave information.

University Assistance for Individuals with HIV/AIDS

Questions and Answers

Q. I'm worried that I may be infected with HIV. How do I go about getting tested?
A. To get tested at Columbia, you may either a) call 854-2878 and ask to make an appointment with an advocate for counseling prior to the test, or b) call 854-2284 and ask to make an appointment with an ambulatory care nurse for the counseling. In either case, the blood is drawn at the Health Service and is taken by a volunteer to the City Lab for anonymous testing. Results are usually back in about two weeks. You can also be tested anonymously (and free of charge) through the New York City Department of Health, 447-8200. Some private physicians also arrange HIV-antibody testing, which is confidential, not anonymous. Arrange for testing only with a physician whom you trust to guard your confidentiality.

Q. I just found out that I am HIV positive. What should I do?
A. Expert medical care for HIV-disease can extend the period of healthy functioning, perhaps indefinitely. You need to find a physician knowledgeable about HIV disease, have your immune system monitored through blood tests, and consider various medications to slow the virus and prevent opportunistic infections. We encourage you to call Laura Pinsky at CGHAP, 854-2878, who can give you more detailed information and refer you to HIV-expert physicians.

Q. Should I tell my supervisor and co-workers my HIV status?
A. The decision of when and what to tell people about your HIV status is one that you will want to approach carefully. People who are HIV positive often lead healthy and productive lives for many years. CGHAP and the Columbia Ombuds Office can offer confidential advice in making such a decision.

Q. My colleagues suspect that I am HIV positive and are doing things like cleaning anything I touch with disinfectant. What can I do to stop this?
A. This sort of stigmatization is clearly in violation of Columbia's non-discriminatory policies. First, call the matter to the attention of your supervisor. If the behavior persists, contact your union representative (if appropriate), your personnel officer, CGHAP, or the Ombuds Office.

Q. I was recently hospitalized with pneumonia and diagnosed with AIDS. Should I explore disability leave?
A. Not necessarily. After an initial illness, persons with AIDS often continue to lead healthy, productive lives. Disability leaves are available to individuals who are unable to perform the duties and responsibilities of their jobs. Even if you should become physically impaired, you may be able to continue to work at Columbia through an accommodation for a changed workload or schedule. In any case, this decision should be thought out carefully with your doctor, your supervisor, your personnel officer, and with other appropriate counselors on campus (such as CGHAP representatives and the Ombuds Officer).

Q. My domestic partner is extremely ill and, as his primary caregiver, I will need to take time off to care for him. What leave arrangements are available to me?
A. You are entitled to use your vacation accrual for this purpose, and, depending upon your job responsibilities, you may be able to take unpaid leave. Talk with your supervisor, personnel director, or the Ombuds Office.

Q. I've had unprotected vaginal sex with men in the past few years. Am I at risk of AIDS?
A. If you are concerned about your HIV status, you should consider HIV antibody testing. The incidence of vAIDS among women is growing rapidly. AIDS is now the leading cause of death of all women age 30-34 in New York City (though most of these cases have a primary or secondary drug connection). In the future, you can protect yourself by using condoms.

Q. I've just learned that I'm HIV positive and find that I'm having trouble concentrating and feel tired and anxious. Is this normal?
A. You can be expected to feel anxious or depressed when you find out that you are HIV-infected. Most people feel better after a few months, although periods of stress, anxiety, and depression, often come and go. Help and support can ease any sense of crisis. Support groups are an excellent source of assistance. On campus, CGHAP offers a support group open to staff; another on-site resource is the Health Service's HIV Clinic, which is available to consult with and which sees employees as well as students. Individual therapy may also be helpful, especially if the anxiety or depression is severe, long-lasting, or causing you to act in a self-destructive way, e.g., suicidal thoughts, unsafe sex, heavy drinking, or ignoring medical care. You may want to consult GMHC or the PWA Coalition Hotline (see the last page of this brochure) for additional assistance.

Q. My family didn't even know my 31-year-old brother was gay until he told us he has AIDS. It's dividing and hurting my family, and I can't concentrate at work. Is there anything I can do?
A. Yes. AIDS affects many more people than those it afflicts directly. Many of the offices and organizations listed in this brochure have additional programs and support services directed toward family members of those with HIV/AIDS, and we strongly urge you to take advantage of them. For the person with AIDS, support of family and friends is vital.

Campus Support for Individuals with AIDS/HIV

The following campus-based information sources are available to help those concerned about HIV/AIDS:

Selected Greater New York Resources for HIV/AIDS

Other Local Information Resources

All resources below are free except where noted.


Columbia faculty and staff wishing confidential assistance with matters relating to AIDS/HIV should contact:

For comments, suggestions or updates relating to this publication, please contact: -- Last updated: 9/1/95

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Last revision: 03/13/00