What You Should Know When Someone in Your Salon Has HIV

Author:   |   Posted on: January 02, 2017

So you just hired a new hairdresser and in a conversation you discover they have HIV. The blood drains from your face and you chat a few more minutes but you think, “What have I done? Have I put my whole salon at risk? I have to find out more.”

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It can take 10-15 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS.

HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated needles but also between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

There is currently no cure for HIV. But with adherence to antiretroviral treatment, the progression of HIV in the body can be slowed to a near halt.

HIV is thought to originate in Africa, where humans caught it from chimpanzees and the spread started in the 70s. For many years, the human type of HIV was limited to a remote part of Africa. In the 80s initially it was thought to be a disease related to the gay lifestyle as the men were gay. Then reports of females with AIDs suggested sexual transmission.

1988 marked the first World AIDS day and in 1989 effectiveness of drugs in clinical trials was seen to control the disease. In 2000, 34.3 million cases of HIV worldwide, with largest number in South Africa, were estimated; HIV vaccine trials began in Oxford in 2000. In 2003 in Swaziland and Botswana in Southern Africa, almost 40 percent of adult’s HIV+ AIDS vaccine failed. Enfuviride a new drug called fusion inhibitor was approved in the USA. In 2005 drug companies and makers agreed to make available cheaper generic anti-viral drugs.

In 2012 six million lives were saved using the drugs to inhibit the growth of AIDS. There are seven companies now making effective Protease Inhibitors made available at a reasonable cost. This has reduced the near extinction of a whole group of people. There are still over two million people who die every year because they can’t afford AIDs drugs.

So what do you do when your new hairdresser tells you their HIV status? First, thank them for trusting you with their private health information. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them. One reason they may have chosen to disclose their status to you is that they need help with a particular issue. Let the person know, through your words or actions, that their HIV status does not change your relationship.

Then Learn. Educate yourself about HIV: what it is, how it is transmitted, how it is treated, and how people can stay healthy while living with HIV. Having a solid understanding of HIV is a big step forward in dealing with a new employee or co-worker. Knowledge is empowering.

Today, lots of people living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy called ART and have the virus under control. Others are at different stages of treatment and care. Don’t make assumptions. Ask educated questions.

Be available to have open, honest, private conversations about HIV. Follow the lead of the person who is diagnosed with HIV. They may not want to talk about it, or may not be ready. Let them choose who they tell and when they tell. Reassure them that you know HIV is a manageable health condition with medicines that can treat HIV and help them stay healthy.

HIV-related stigma and discrimination still persist in the United States and negatively affect the health and well-being of people living with HIV. You can play an important role in reducing stigma and discrimination by offering your support to people living with HIV and speaking out to correct myths and stereotypes that you hear from others in your community.