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To Work or not to Work

Our Positive Work project is now completed, with women finding both the workshops offered very useful. One of the women who participated in the project tells her own story below. Positive Women Victoria


Life was pretty comfortable about ten years ago. I was married and quite happy in my life and working full time as a cook in the Navy. Yet my husband and I felt that our lives weren't quite complete. We were fairly secure financially: we owned everything, even the car, so thought it was time to enlarge our family. Our son was born in February of 1991 and when he was 4 weeks old, I decided that I would stay at home for a while and concentrate on being a mum and housewife for a while. The idea of going back to work wasn't completely dismissed: I figured that once he was at school that I would probably go back to work, even if it was only part-time.


This was all very good in theory, but when put into practice, well, you know what they say about all good intentions. The waters don't always run smooth. During the course of my husband's work in the Navy we were transferred to Western Australia, a good thing we thought at the time as we had heard how great the lifestyle was there. We had been in W. A. for a whole four days when our contented life changed forever. My husband was told that he had tested positive to HIV. Our son was only 11 months old and we had all sorts of horrible thoughts running through our minds: was I also positive, and what about our son? Thankfully he tested negative, but I tested positive some 12 months later. Any thoughts of returning to work were seemingly gone and we have been making do on the one wage from my husband ever since.

I guess we have been quite fortunate financially. My husband being in the Navy has given us a regular income, his health has been very erratic, quite a few ups outweighed by more than a few downs, but we've somehow managed to muddle through.


Our finances are scant at best, we still own everything we have, but the credit card debt and the always being broke the day after pay-day is depressing at best.


My husband's health has been fairly consistent on the well side now for about the past 2 years, so much so that I am beginning to feel a little obsolete, especially now that he doesn't need to rely on me for treatments at home. It makes a huge difference to your life when you can ignore all the IV treatments and be regulated on oral medication. I myself am still enjoying good health even though it's been five and a half years since my initial diagnosis, but again, the stress of worrying about money hasn't made my life easy, something I'm sure we can all relate to.


A few months ago I took part in a study conducted through the Positive Women's office about positive women that were considering returning to the work force and any problems that I felt would stand in my way. Being associated with the catering industry was my main concern and how my workmates would react if they knew of my status and how it would affect my employment chances. Since then I have come to realise that beggars can't be choosers and if a job opportunity arises, you should grab hold of it in both hands, regardless of your status. Each one of us is as entitled to a job as the next person; whatever it takes to earn a little bit of money, whether it be to get out of a financial bind or to regain a little more self respect and give the ego a king sized boost.


It's been eight years since I was in the workforce. My concern to continue in the path I had before my diagnosis went out the window quick smart after my first day at work, the butterflies were doing backflips when I first walked in, but subsided by the end of my shift. The work is only part time, but for me it has boosted my self-esteem ten fold. It might not be the most glamorous job in the world, but it gets me out of the house and out of the shadow of my husband. I am no longer just someone's wife, I have my own identity again.


I feel absolutely exhausted after I have finished work, but it is nice to be able to confidently say that it is because of work and not the effects of HIV. I have never really been a morning person, and I have scored the breakfast shift starting at 6.30 in the morning. I usually finish around 2 in the afternoon, so I can still be there for my little boy when he finishes at school. My medication regimen affords me the luxury of having my pills before I leave for work in the mornings and well after I finish work in the afternoons.


Going back to work has been great for me, It'll be even greater after I actually see my pay packet for the fortnight and see the fruits of my labour.



by Chris , Australia - 1999

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