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

W.O. Odek, A. Glendinning, S Charalambous

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-156
Number of pages12
JournalWORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation
Issue number2
Early online date13 Sept 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

This research was undertaken by Willis Odek as part of Doctoral studies at the University of Aberdeen, UK, with funding from the University of Aberdeen’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) and the UK Government’s Overseas Research Students Award Scheme (ORS). The study was implemented in collaboration
with the Aurum Institute for Health Research, South Africa. Special appreciation is expressed to Dr. S.B. Mfenyana, Chief Executive Officer, Tembisa Hospital and Dr. Alan Karstaedt of Chris Hani
Baragwanath Hospital, for facilitating the implementation of the study at the two health facilities. In addition, the support of Sister Violet Ramalapa of Tembisa Hospital and Sister Gertrude Monkoe of Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital with the day-to-day implementation of the study is deeply appreciated. Dr. Chester
Morris’ pivotal role in linking the principal investigator with the South African collaborators is also highly appreciated. The assistance of data collectors and data managers, namely: Ms. Lebo Ramatsa, Ms. Phendulwa Myeki, Mr. Sibusiso Sadike, Mr. Xolani Nkos, Mr. Lihle Mchunu and Ms. Dineo Matsemela is also deeply appreciated. Finally, the co-operation of the study participants was invaluable to the success of the study


  • workplace HIV policies
  • employment continuation
  • chronic illness
  • stigma
  • South Africa


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