The impact of antiretroviral treatment on individual well-being in Soweto, South Africa

Chhagan, Varsha
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This research explored the short-term socioeconomic effect of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in HIV positive patients attending the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) clinics in Soweto & Acornhoek. This study utilised mixed methodology, combining quantitative descriptive analysis with qualitative interviews in two phases. An overall increase in mean personal and household income (R308 and R130 respectively) following commencement of ART was noted. Mean personal income rose 53% over baseline income. A decrease in the number of meals missed in households was noted in 10% of the sample. The leading themes regarding income were change in employment status and social grants. Four percent of unemployed patients reported a change in employment status after starting ART despite high unemployment rates in South Africa. Antiretroviral treatments enabled patients to return to formal employment, and in the absence of formal job prospects, informal income generating activities were undertaken. Unemployment was directly related to both ill health and limited employment opportunities. Antiretroviral treatment increased the capacity to seek employment and unemployed individuals were actively searching for work. Nine percent of the sample required less assistance with daily activities once treatment was initiated. An average of 4.6 hours of patient and caregiver time was freed up. Patients noted an improvement in well being, with fewer to no episodes of illness, and improved quality of life from three months after starting ART. The empirical evidence suggests that individuals gain substantial benefits from being on ART despite the socioeconomic challenges in South Africa. Income changes were directly attributable to changes in employment and social grants, and even though employment opportunities are not readily available in South Africa, improved health led directly to the ability of individuals to participate in economic activity.
Antiretrovirals, AIDS, Auto Immuno Defficiency Syndrome