In the early 1980s, two physicians at the New York University Medical Center noticed a positive correlation between productive employment and success in coping with medical complications associated with AIDS. In 1986, they convened a group around this nucleus of AIDS professionals and raised funds, allowing for a staff of five to open its doors in 1989. Within three months of program operation, both the New York City Department of Employment and the State of New York signed on as partners in an effort to extend the productive life of people with HIV.
Multitasking Systems of New York, Inc., (MTS) is a not-for-profit collaboration with a six-part mission: 1) directly employ workers with HIV/AIDS at its business-services center; 2) train people with HIV disease in word processing and other office skills, and help them find jobs elsewhere; 3) counsel people re-entering the job market after HIV-positive diagnosis; 4) collect and disseminate information for employers about workplace adaptations for people with HIV disease; 5) advocate on behalf of workers with HIV/AIDS; and 6) serve as a national example, replicable in any city, that people with AIDS can be economically productive and self-sufficient.
MTS is a business enterprise that helps workers with HIV/AIDS to help themselves by offering productive work and adapting the workplace to accommodate medical needs. MTS operates a business-services center in mid-town Manhattan, a "quick-print" company that offers photocopying, word processing, volume mail services, desktop publishing and facsimile transmission to businesses and other organizations. All MTS jobs are performed by workers with HIV/AIDS, cross-trained to work interchangeably at a variety of tasks, helping each other and stepping in for absent colleagues.
MTS uses a variety of success measures. Its major goals, as stated in the mission statement, are outreach, placement, and training of as many persons with AIDS as possible, regardless of contract goals. In its first two years of operation, MTS has directly employed just under 100 HIV-infected workers. It has placed more than 300 in jobs outside MTS. It has counseled and assessed more than 500. It refers eligible clients for state-funded training, and takes referrals from more than 25 community medical and social service agencies.