How Do People Living with HIV Experience the Workplace?

People living with HIV (PLHIV) face stigma that can affect not only their personal lives, but also their work experiences. As organizations continue making strides towards improving work for stigmatized groups, it is important to consider how PLHIV may face unique challenges. New research (Ocampo et al., 2022) examines how the stigma that comes from having HIV impacts job effectiveness.


The researchers conducted a long-term study in the Philippines with working professionals who were seeking treatment for HIV. They collected data on the extent to which participants experienced HIV stigma and how this affected their job performance as well as organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) which refers to going above and beyond job requirements.

The researchers found that HIV stigma was related to a sense of shame, which negatively impacted performance and OCB. Additionally, they found that when participants’ CD4 cell counts (a measure of physiological vitality for PLHIV) were lower, shame had an especially negative effect on job effectiveness due to lacking the physical resources to “bounce back” from shame. Lastly, they found that participants who had higher core self-evaluations (meaning sense of self-worth and competence) did not experience as strong of a negative impact resulting from HIV stigma.


Because shame was the primary mechanism through which HIV stigma affected job effectiveness, organizations should find ways to mitigate stigma and shame from HIV. For instance, initiatives such as mentoring, coworker sensitivity training, and interventions to improve self-worth might help employees with HIV. Further, organizations should consider flexible work options that would allow people living with HIV to attend to their health needs and appointments. This can help boost CD4 cell counts and, in turn, job effectiveness.


Ocampo, A. C. G., Chen, Y., Restubog, S. L. D., Wang, L., & Decoste, A. (2022). A cross-lagged longitudinal investigation of the relationship between stigma and job effectiveness among employees with HIV. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.

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