Researchers from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and the University of California at San Francisco reported that having a job helped HIV-infected women maintain a health routine that included taking medications on schedule, keeping medical appointments, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Those who succeeded with self-management tasks such as these had a better chance of living a normal life span.
Allison Webel, lead author and assistant professor of nursing at CWRU's Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing, stated that positive employment aspects included the routine of a work schedule, additional income and benefits, and emotional support. Webel also noted that employment gave the HIV-infected women a sense of contributing to the world outside their homes.
Study authors surveyed 260 HIV-infected women about social resources to identify factors that helped participants with self-management. Average age of respondents was 46; a large proportion comprised mothers and African Americans. Many of the HIV-infected women had limited financial resources or were homeless and juggled many different responsibilities, which made maintaining a healthy routine more difficult. Although it was not clear why, African-American women were more successful in self-managing health than other ethnic groups.
In the past, many HIV-infected women quit work to focus on their health. However, newer antiretroviral therapies have become more effective in preventing HIV from progressing to AIDS and in delaying HIV-related illnesses, which has enabled HIV-infected women to stay in the workforce. The study authors recommended establishing training programs to help HIV-infected women find and hold jobs. Additional research into microenterprises might also suggest ways to help HIV-infected women generate income for necessities such as food and housing.
The full report, "The Impact of Social Context on Self-Management in Women Living With HIV," was published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine (2013; doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.03.037).
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