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Major employers are only now starting to follow the lead of smaller employers in requesting information on AIDS and the workplace, according to Personnel Journal.

The magazine, which publishes the only employers guide available concerning services and information on AIDS and the workplace, reported that large firms represent only 15 percent of the total requests received for the guide, and these only in the last six months.Also, in what may be the first acknowledgement of AIDS affliction in the workplace by employers, more than 100 organizations representing more than 337,000 employees reported two deaths and 60 known diagnosed AIDS cases in the last year and a half.

The Personnel Journal results will be reported Sunday at the opening of the American Society for Personnel Administration conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Allan R. Halcrow, editor of Personnel Journal, said in the one year since the publication originated its free "Workplace and AIDS" guide, 85 percent of the 1,200 requests for copies have come from small to medium-sized firms.

They have led the way in requests from the beginning. Of the 85 percent, around 50 percent are small firms and the remaining 35 percent medium-sized firms, Halcrow said.

"This represents a complete reversal of the usual trends, in which the larger employers usually lead the way with employee benefit and similar programs because they have the resources in terms of people and dollars.

"However in the case of AIDS information, many apparently have been reluctant to acknowledge that a problem exists and have taken a very conservative approach to the situation.

"If an AIDS problem does exist within their employee ranks, it seems that many large employers do not consider it serious enough to warrant their attention, perhaps because of the tiny percentage of AIDS victims among a large workforce."

Halcrow said smaller firms may react to AIDS more quickly because it becomes more apparent in smaller workforces. Also, they may want to seek ways of reducing the potential costs associated with AIDS education and treatment, because it represents a larger portion of their employee benefits budgets.

"By staying on the cutting edge of knowledge about how other companies are handling AIDS problems, smaller employers may be able to provide cost-effective solutions to their own AIDS-related problems as well as better service to their employees," Halcrow observed.

Eighty percent of the firms requesting information said they believe the number of diagnosed cases of AIDS in their organizations will increase.

However, many of those without an AIDS education program or plans to establish one seem to be running into their own obstacles - mainly with management, said Halcrow.

He cited the response from an executive with a Mid-Atlantic insurance firm with over 1,000 employees and no AIDS education program who said, "I'm trying to convince management to deal with this issue head-on."

A representative from a Northeast statewide trade association with 7,000 employees added: "Many employers are taking the need for an AIDS policy too lightly."

Personnel Journal launched its AIDS In The Workplace Information Clearinghouse in July, 1987 in response to the lack of a single source of information about AIDS in the workplace. The Clearinghouse was designed to provide employers with information on education, insurance, legal and employer-policy issues associated with the disease.

Halcrow said Personnel Journal initiated the Clearinghouse to provide a central point for the distribution of work-related information on AIDS enabling all employers to benefit from the experience and approaches to the problem that are being taken by companies and organizations.

"We took the initiative because our audience, personnel administrators and those in human resources, represent the best avenues for distribution of information concerning AIDS. They are their organization's communications links to employees," Halcrow said.

Personnel Journal recently updated "The Workplace and AIDS" guide. It consists of a directory of over 200 organizations, educational programs, consultants and articles focusing on AIDS and the workplace. Prepared as a public service, it is available without charge from Personnel Journal.

Categories of information for employers include company policy; employee education; general education; legal issues; medical coverage; public policy and testing and worker protection. Each listing is summarized with name, address and phone number listed to contact for further information.

Employers may request a free copy of the guide by writing on their company letterhead to: Personnel Journal, 245 Fischer Ave. B-2, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.