The best time to write a company policy for employees with AIDS is before someone comes forward with the news that he or she is HIV-positive. After managers from several companies at an industry roundtable mentioned that they had HIV-positive employees, Michael Lauber figured it was time to consider an AIDS policy for his 100-employee company, even though he didn't perceive it as being at immediate risk. With help from the American Red Cross and the National Leadership Coalition on AIDS, in Washington, D.C., Lauber developed a chronic-illness policy statement for his company, TuscoDisplay, in Gnadenhutten, Ohio.

Besides complying with the federal Rehabilitation Act and state and local ordinances covering disability discrimination, employers with 15 or more workers are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide "reasonable accommodations" for those who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. Lauber, for instance, is prepared to discuss short- and long-term disability leave, and an advance on a life-insurance policy. He also holds on-site educational seminars, which have had unforeseen benefits. "One of our managers had jaundice," says Lauber. "Though it had nothing to do with AIDS, his coworkers were prepared to understand that they couldn't 'catch it' from casual contact. People might have been freaked out if they hadn't been educated."