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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 00:26 GMT
'My fight against discrimination'
People with HIV are discriminated against throughout society
When Mark Hedley's partner, Colin, became seriously ill three-and-a-half years ago, neither of them suspected he had HIV.

But six months later Colin was dead and Mark had tested positive for the disease.


It soon became apparent that since November when I first told them I was positive they had been trying to find ways to get rid of me

Mark Hedley
At the time of his diagnosis, Mark was 34 and a successful shop manager for a supermarket chain.

He had been at the company for six years and was earning more than 30,000.

Catalogue of excuses

"When I found out I was positive I decided to tell my employers because I knew I was going to need quite a long time off work for treatment," he said.

"At first they were absolutely brilliant and they had been extremely supportive throughout Mark's death.

"And they seemed very supportive when I broke the news.

"They told me to come back to work when I was feeling 100% and they gave me as much time off as I needed on full pay."

But four months later when Mark felt he was ready to return to work he began to feel the support from his employers was no longer there.

He claims the company came up with a catalogue of excuses to prevent Mark returning to work.

He said: "They began by telling me to get myself into a routine, go to the gym and get my fitness back - I thought it was all for my benefit.

Legal action

"I took their advice and went back a month later but they came up with some other excuse.

"It went on like that for three months until in June 1999 I went to see the regional manager.

"He told me that the company thought it was in my best interest to look for a job with another company.

"It soon became apparent that since November when I first told them I was positive they had been trying to find ways to get rid of me."

It was at this point that Mark decided to contact the Terrence Higgins Trust who put him in touch with a solicitor.

From June 1999 to April 2000 Mark was embroiled in a legal battle with the company.


I thought about the way Colin would have reacted and there is no doubt he would definitely have fought his corner

Mark Hedley
The case was eventually settled out of court and Mark received an undisclosed settlement, rumoured to be a six-figured sum.

He said: "When I was first diagnosed I toyed with the idea of telling my employers I had cancer.

"But at the end of the day it was not going to affect my work and I was not going to put anyone at risk.

"The company were offered all types of help with getting information about the disease but in the end they thought sales would be affected if their customers found out."

Philosophical

Mark, who now works for a community project for gay and bisexual men in Newcastle, is philosophical.

"At the end of the day Colin's death was the worst experience I have ever been through so I just dealt with the rest.

"I thought about the way Colin would have reacted and there is no doubt he would definitely have fought his corner.

"Maybe that's what got me through!"

A spokesperson for the company, German supermarket chain Aldi, said: "The circumstances leading to this settlement were unfortunate.

"However, Aldi endeavoured to offer Mr Hedley an acceptable settlement and this was finalised in April 2000 to the mutual agreement of both parties.

"We are unable to discuss the matter in more detail in line with our agreement with Mr Hedley."

See also:

28 Nov 01 | Health
HIV discrimination 'rife'
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