The report released ahead of World AIDS Day dubbed “The Impact of Employment on HIV Treatment Adherence” – analyses the findings of 23 studies on the relationship between employment and HIV treatment, and covers more than 6,500 people living with HIV. The analysis was supplemented by a series of surveys and telephone interviews carried out by the ILO.
The study which was made available by the ILO to the Ghana News Agency on Thursday, found evidence that people living with HIV maintain treatment more successfully when they have a job than when they do not.
It said this is mainly because they have regular financial means to pay for related health services, medications and support, and to afford sufficient food.
“While access to treatment has increased dramatically in recent years, ensuring that people living with HIV are able to keep to treatment regimens remains a challenge. It is clear from the report that employment, and the role of the workplace more broadly, are vital to meeting the goal of treatment for 15 million people living with HIV by 2015,” said Alice Ouédraogo, Chief of ILO AIDS.
The report includes findings from low, middle and high-income countries in Africa, Asia and North America.
It found that unemployment, particularly in low and middle-income countries, affects people’s ability to afford treatment, which could lead to interruptions, low viral suppression and ultimately treatment failure.
The study said joblessness might also result in depression, and in behaviours and situations that have been shown to be factors in non-adherence, including low self-care, substance abuse and homelessness. Adding that in some cases it could lead to criminal activity that results in imprisonment.
“Women are more likely to have access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) in most regions of the world, especially those areas with high HIV prevalence.
“As a result treatment adherence is stronger overall for females. However, employment is a key factor in helping men keep to treatment regimens as they experience better financial and food security and may have access to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) services at their workplace,” it said.
The report said people living with HIV who are in informal work tend to experience difficulties keeping to treatment regimens.
A woman living with HIV interviewed for the study said: “Workers in the informal sector or in small and medium size companies with no insurance or health policy are less likely to adhere to ART because the salary is not high enough or is paid on an irregular basis.”
The report makes several specific recommendations to help improve ART adherence, including prioritizing actions that promote the economic independence of people living with HIV and improving national efforts to develop new anti-discrimination policies and enforcing existing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.