Now more than ever, employment is an essential part of the nation’s coordinated response to HIV/AIDS. More and more, people with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are living healthy lives and can and want to work—and research clearly demonstrates the benefits of doing so.Employment can be critical to improving the economic and personal well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS. It can impact health and can increase a person’s ability to live a satisfying, productive and meaningful life. Employment can also increase financial self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on publicly funded benefits and other services. As the nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has shifted, so too has the employment needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.In the early years of the epidemic, many people lost their jobs or could not work to their full potential due to deteriorating health, pervasive discrimination, and/or receipt of public benefits. Due to advances in care and treatment, PLWHA increasingly have the stamina to work and achieve self-sufficiency through employment. Increased life expectancy has created a renewed focus on financial independence and retirement planning.
Many PLWHA today have employment service needs that are very different from those of PLWHA in the early years of the epidemic. Early efforts at providing employment services for PLWHA were designed to promote the continued workforce participation or reentry of individuals who, given the demographic profile of the epidemic at the time, tended to be white, well-educated men with previous employment experience. For some PLWHA today, the goal is
workforce entry, not reentry. Studies reveal limited work experience and a need for assistance in gaining interpersonal or “soft” skills in addition to specific job skills among people with HIV/AIDS. Many of the communities most affected by or at risk for HIV/AIDS are also those that experience higher rates of discrimination and other employment barriers, such as a history of drug use and/or incarceration.A 1992 study of Multitasking Systems (MTS) of New York, Inc., one of the first employment and training programs in the U.S. for PLWHA, found that HIV is frequently not the primary vocational impediment for PLWHA. Poverty, homelessness, discrimination, lack of job skills and low literacy, conditions that predated development of HIV-related functional limitations, were the primary impediments to employment.Research has long shown a correlation between employment and economic, social and health benefits. In recent years, this body of research has expanded to include studies focused specifically on PLWHA. Although these studies have all approached the issue from different angles, they collectively point to the value of employment services as a component of holistic HIV/AIDS service provision.Employment has been positively linked to improved physical and behavioral health and thus can play an important role in reducing health disparities—differences in health that are closely linked with social, economic and/or environmental disadvantages. Health disparities adversely affect groups who have historically experienced discrimination or exclusion based on characteristics such as race/ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, age, mental health, disability, sexual orientation or geographic location. Several of these groups are also among those most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Source: "Getting to Work: A Training Curriculum for HIV/AIDS Service Providers and Housing Providers"
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