Since Autumn 2016 the Work Foundation has been undertaking a piece of research to assess the impact of HIV on working lives in the UK. This extends our previous study on the economic costs associated with different long-term conditions. After reviewing the published evidence and gathering the views of key players in the UK HIV world, we ran a roundtable bringing together a group of expert stakeholders to give their views on the emerging research findings. This included people living with HIV (PLHIV) as well as experienced clinicians and individuals from the voluntary sector. They confirmed the need for action to improve employment rates in PLHIV, which continue to be low (just 64%) despite advances in treatment that mean an individual living with effectively managed HIV should experience minimal functional impairments.
Our research has identified that stigma and discrimination persists as a barrier to employment in PLHIV primarily due to misinformation about the condition. Most commonly because perceptions are based on the last national public awareness campaigns which occurred in the mid-1990s. At the roundtable event, we agreed ways to address these outdated attitudes and beliefs, including working collaboratively to improve understanding, across stakeholder organisations.
As with much of our work on health and employment, we found wider social determinants had considerable impact on employment outcomes in PLHIV. The profile of the people most likely to be living with HIV, showed that often they were in social groups already likely to have lower employment rates, regardless of their HIV status. They were also less likely to be engaged in the sort of employment that the Work Foundation seeks to promote – the work that brings good rewards, not just financially, but also in terms of the nature of the activities performed and terms under which they are conducted.
Our report, due out later this month, provides a series of case studies of good work-related support for PLHIV and offers a number of recommendations for creating practical solutions to rapidly address some of the problems identified for PLHIV securing and maintaining employment.