How important are Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) clinical markers to the long-term formal employment among people living with HIV in developing countries? A study in South Africa.
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OBJECTIVE: To examine the relationship of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) clinical markers and socio-demographic characteristics with long-term formal employment among people living with HIV (PLHIV). PARTICIPANTS: 554 adults, 55% females, on HIV treatment for at least two years at two public hospitals in Johannesburg, South Africa. METHODS: A retrospective cohort design, tracing changes in study participants' formal employment status since the first HIV-positive diagnosis. Data collection included historical medical records review and interviewer-administered questionnaires. RESULTS: 44% of all study participants (39% and 49% among males and females, respectively) were formally employed at the time of the study, primarily in low-skilled jobs in the private sector. The majority (83%) of males and 60% of females remained in formal employment since being diagnosed as HIV-positive. Female gender, education to grade 12 or higher, a smaller household size and being married were significantly associated with current formal employment. Formal employment was unrelated to HIV treatment indicators (CD4 count, viral load and duration since diagnosis). Of those in formal employment, 68 (28%) were aware of HIV policies at their workplaces, which was also positively associated with the duration in their current employment. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: PLHIV in developing country contexts can enter into and maintain formal employment, especially when treatment and workplace support are available. Thus, employer organisations should implement effective workplace HIV policies to enhance employment experiences of their workforce living with HIV. Care and support services for people on HIV treatment should also address their career development needs.