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AIDS, stigma and unemployment: implications for health services

OBJECTIVE: To analyze the effect of the stigmatization and discrimination process in the work environment on the routine healthcare and well-being of men living with HIV/AIDS. METHODS: Qualitative study with 17 men living with HIV, conducted in 2002. Testimonies given in a group to discuss the difficulties concerning discrimination in the work environment were studied, by means of discursive practice analysis. The group, originating from a specialized center for HIV/AIDS treatment in the city of São Paulo, represented a segment of previous research. RESULTS: The discussion among participants pointed out the fact that antiretroviral treatment requires frequent visits to medical assistance services, resulting in absences and delays at work. To show medical certificates to justify absences at work, even without indicating AIDS, can lead to dismissal. Unemployed, many are barred during medical examinations and have their right to confidentiality violated. As a last resource, the request for retirement results in a humiliating or discriminatory scene during the medical inspection. CONCLUSIONS: Assistance planned with the patients' participation enables the broadening of psychosocial attention and the consideration of the needs of both employed and unemployed patients, acknowledging that the stigma limits care, affecting mental health and the evolution of infection. To reduce the effect of stigma and discrimination is something that requires intersectoral political articulation and will contribute to reach goals that are globally recognized as fundamental to control the epidemic.

Men; Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; Workers; Job satisfaction; Unemployment; Prejudice; Psychosocial deprivation; Occupational health

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