Antiretroviral treatment keeps HIV patients in South Africa employed

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Antiretroviral drug treatment for HIV appears to have more payoffs than the promise of better health and a longer life – it also seems to help people living with HIV stay employed or get new jobs, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies. In a study of a large population cohort, the investigators found that four years after initiating therapy, HIV patients were 90% as likely to be working as they were three to five years before starting treatment. Many patients initiated treatment early enough so that they were able to avoid any loss of employment due to HIV.

While antiretroviral therapies are known to reduce HIV transmission and prolong lives of many HIV patients, less is known about the economic benefits of treatment. This is the first study to assess the economic impact of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in a population-based cohort.

“We found antiretroviral therapy does not only postpone mortality, it enables HIV patients to lead economically productive lives,” said lead author Jacob Bor, SD’14, an HSPH doctoral candidate in global health and population.

The study appears in the July 2012 issue of Health Affairs.