To identify patterns and predictors of work status and number of hours employed in a group of men with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
A total of 141 participants had semiannual neuropsychiatric, psychosocial, and medical assessments over a period of 30 months. These six occasions provided the basis for identifying patterns of employment (part-time, full-time, or unemployed). Those who completed neuropsychological testing, introduced at visit 4, constitute the sample used to identify predictors of number of hours employed, using multiple regression analysis with mixed procedure.
Over 30 months, 20% were continuously employed full-time, another 9% were continuously employed part-time, and 40% were continuously unemployed. Employment status changed for 31%: 4% who worked at baseline stopped, 13% started or increased their hours, 8% decreased their hours, and 6% showed a fluctuating pattern. The major parameters consistently associated with unemployment or partial employment, in order of influence, were financial (disability benefits), psychiatric (past/current diagnosis of major depression and/or dysthymia), medical (physical limitations), cognitive (executive function), and education. In contrast, age, ethnicity, laboratory markers of HIV illness status, vocational rank, and past or current substance dependence did not predict work status.
Overall, those who worked continued to work. However, despite improved health, most men who were unemployed at study baseline did not return to work. Structure of disability benefits, lifetime depressive disorder, physical limitations, and impairment in some areas of cognitive function each appear to represent significant barriers to work. Returning to work is evidently difficult, and clinicians may keep this in mind when recommending leaving work unless medically necessary. Specific interventions and policy changes regarding disability benefits may be needed to promote return to work for people with HIV/AIDS whose health is restored and who contemplate re-employment.