Employment is an essential part of leading an independent, self-directed life for all people, including those living with HIV/AIDS. Reflecting this, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (DOL/ODEP) works to improve employment opportunities and outcomes and reduce stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS. Key efforts to date include the development of a suite of educational materials and convening of two events at which thought leaders explored the issue of HIV/AIDS in the context of employment and devised recommendations for future action. Together, these symposia laid the groundwork for the development of an online HIV/AIDS and Employment Community of Practice.
Based on its previous work on related agency initiatives, Concepts was hired by ODEP in September 2012 to assist in advancing its rapidly expanding HIV/AIDS Employment initiative. This project was structured around two main components, the first of which was the creation and facilitation of an online Community of Practice.
The foundation for this Community of Practice was two previously held events, the April 2011 HIV/AIDS and Employment Roundtable and the July 2012 Institute on HIV/AIDS and Employment. These events – both of which Concepts attended and wrote reports for – gathered thought leaders from within the U.S. and internationally. Following them, ODEP wanted to provide a forum for sustained dialogue, and its already existing ePolicyWorks platform offered an effective and cost-efficient way to do so.
In creating this new HIV/AIDS and Employment “eWorkgroup,” Concepts drew upon its extensive experience with ePolicyWorks, an initiative the company helped conceptualize and launch in 2008 and continues to manage. After creating a customized online workspace based on identified topic areas, Concepts invited and on-boarded the group’s members through training and technical assistance. Today, Concepts assists ODEP in facilitating the group, implementing webinars and other activities designed to engage, educate and foster cohesion among members. This includes close collaboration with representatives from federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups.
The activities taking place in the HIV/AIDS and Employment eWorkgroup are now helping to inform the second component of the initiative – the development of a training curriculum to increase the capacity of HIV/AIDS service providers to provide employment support and services to their clients. Concepts has developed a comprehensive outline for the curriculum’s content and is currently working with ODEP and partners to explore technical options for presenting it and making it widely accessible and beneficial.