Employment is a key social determinant of health. When people are engaged in decent work, it provides an adequate income, helps individuals develop their social connections, and has a positive impact on health. Unemployment rates in people living with HIV (PLWH) have been found to be higher than the general population for numerous reasons, including poorer health status and stigma in the workplace. This community-based research draws on the extensive experience of Employment ACTion, an AIDS Service Organizations in Toronto that has assisted hundreds of PLWH explore employment; Realize, a national non-profit that focuses on rehabilitation; and health providers and academics. The study aims to catalyze a new partnership around employment and identify opportunities to better support PLWH in their search for employment. This project engages PLWH in interviews to identify barriers for attaining or maintaining employment and reviews the anonymized Employment ACTion client files to better understand the client demographics.
This project will result in a network of service agencies, health providers, and academics that are interested in addressing employment outcomes for PHAs in Canada. This will support future community-based research in this area. We will also report on report on patients’ and providers’ views on barrier to accessing decent employment, which will inform future intervention and its subsequent evaluation. Lastly, we hope to produce a document summarizing workplace rights for PWHLA and a list of resources around employment that can serve as a community resource.
PLWH face significant barriers when attempting to engage with employment opportunities. The most common barriers are stigma and discrimination, whereby disclosure of HIV status may lead to termination of contracts. Other barriers include higher risk of mental health conditions and fear of losing the Ontario Disability Support Program following employment. Health providers and employment organizations can do more to support campaigns to end HIV stigma, to support individuals in pursuing employment, and to advocate for policy change that supports re-entry into the workforce for PLWH.