The Effect of Access to AIDS Treatment on Employment Outcomes in South Africa

Last updated September 2009


Zoe McLaren

This study examines the impact of access to AIDS treatment on employment outcomes in South Africa. Antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment offers promise as an effective policy intervention to improve the lives of the nearly 6 million South Africans who are HIV-positive. In 2004, the government began the rollout of free ARV treatment in public health clinics. Generally, within three to six months of treatment initiation, health status dramatically improves and life expectancy increases. Recent studies have found ARV treatment to be associated with an increase in labor supply and a reduction in absenteeism. One would expect that the improvement in health from access to treatment would raise the productivity of sick workers, which should increase labor force participation, search activity, and employment rates. I create a new data set that combines detailed, nationally representative economic data with data from public clinics that provide AIDS treatment. I analyze data at the community level using seven consecutive waves of survey data from September 2004 to September 2007. This is the first evaluation of the government provision of ARV treatment in South Africa. The results of this study will provide guidance for the targeting of health service provision in limited-resource environments. Better alignment and coordination of health and labor policy can improve the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of government policies in both arenas.

Contact Information:
Zoe McLaren,, University of Michigan