Occup Environ Med 68:647-652 doi:10.1136/oem.2010.058487
  • Original article
  • Workplace

The effect of HIV infection on time off work in a large cohort of gold miners with known dates of seroconversion

Open AccessEditor's Choice
  1. Jill Murray4,5
  1. 1Research Department of Infection and Population Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Gold Fields Limited, Johannesburg, South Africa
  4. 4School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  5. 5National Institute for Occupational Health, National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pam Sonnenberg, Centre for Sexual Health & HIV Research, Research Department of Infection and Population Health, Mortimer Market Centre, Capper Street, London WC1E 6JB, UK; p.sonnenberg{at}
  • Accepted 21 October 2010
  • Published Online First 28 November 2010


Objectives To estimate the effect of HIV infection on time off work. To provide baseline estimates for economic and actuarial models, and for evaluations of ART and other workplace interventions.

Methods A retrospective cohort study of gold miners with known dates of seroconversion to HIV, and an HIV-negative comparison group, used routinely collected data to estimate the proportion of time off work by calendar period (1992–2002, prior to the introduction of ART), age, time since seroconversion and period before death. The authors calculated ORs for overall time off work and RR ratios (RRR, using multinomial logistic regression) for reasons off work relative to being at work.

Results 1703 HIV-positive and 4859 HIV-negative men were followed for 34 424 person-years. HIV-positive miners spent a higher proportion of time off work than negative miners (20.7% vs 16.1%) due to greater medical and unauthorised absence. Compared with HIV-negative miners, overall time off work increased in the first 2 years after seroconversion (adjusted OR 1.40 (95% CI 1.36 to 1.45)) and then remained broadly stable for a number years, reaching 38.8% in the final year before death (adjusted OR 3.27, 95% CI 2.95 to 3.63). Absence for medical reasons showed the strongest link to HIV infection, increasing from an adjusted RRR of 2.66 (95% CI 2.45 to 2.90) for the first 2 years since seroconversion to 13.6 (95% CI 11.8 to 15.6) in the year prior to death.

Conclusions Time off work provides a quantifiable measure of the effect of HIV on overall morbidity. HIV/AIDS affects both labour supply (increased time off work) and demand for health services (increased medical absence). The effects occur soon after seroconversion and stabilise before reaching very high levels in the period prior to death. Occupational health services are an important setting to identify HIV-infected men early.


  • Funding Colt Foundation UK.

  • Competing interests There are no competing interests. Mine management did not have access to the study dataset, and played no role in the study design or interpretation of results.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Ethics Committees at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa and LSHTM, UK.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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