Last fall the first generation of people to become infected with HIV hit retirement age. While that is a positive indicator of the health and longevity of people living with the virus, it’s also a reminder that more people with HIV are going to need steady income to support themselves into their later years. Queens, N.Y.–based Elmcor is one of the growing number of organizations across the country helping people with HIV gain steady employment. Joey Betancourt, an administrative data specialist for Elmcor’s Positive Ventures Program, says clients have a range of work experience and education levels, and are guided through résumé development, career counseling, and job applications.
“We try to meet the clients where they’re at and take them where they’re going,” says Betancourt, who emphasizes that the group works with everyone from entry-level employees to those with college degrees. For many, he adds, “we try to set them up with vocational training or [retraining in] an area they’re interested in.”
Many of Elmcor’s clients have been placed with local employers, including JFK and LaGuardia airports, and in a range of workplaces—offices, restaurants, and more. In any case, clients would not be placed in any sort of work that would compromise the client’s immune system or overall health, says Elmcor program director Janice Teague. The next step is to get more people to use Elmcor’s resources in the Corona section of Queens, which may seem far away for someone in, say, the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. But Teague says there’s a fix in the works.
“It’s not easy to get to Corona, so we recently made an adjustment to the program where we will outstation our intake and orientation,” she says. “We’re taking it on the road. I want folks to know we can come to them, so they can know what we’re getting involved in before they take the trek.”