In order to assess the health outcomes of the South African public sector antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme, it is important to gain a better understanding of the complex relationship between ART and the multidimensional construct quality of life (QoL). Because of the gap between supply and demand, equity issues arise concerning the provisioning of ART.
The aim of this paper is to examine how and to what extent public sector ART is related to the physical and emotional health of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
The stratified random sample consisted of 371 AIDS patients on ART or medically certified for ART, but still awaiting treatment. A model of the relationships between patient characteristics (age and gender) and socio-economic position (educational level, income, type of dwelling, number of rooms), ART duration, and physical and emotional QoL was tested using structural equation modelling.
Patients with a higher personal income (β = .19, P < .05) and a larger dwelling (β = .45, P < .01) were significantly more likely to enter the programme at this early stage. The model showed that the initial months of ART have been associated with significant improvements in the physical QoL (β = .21, P < .01). Furthermore, patients on ART reported significantly higher levels of emotional well-being than patients awaiting treatment (β = .10, P < .01). Finally, the results indicate that ART is not only directly associated with emotional QoL, but is also indirectly associated with emotional QoL via the mediating variable physical QoL (β = .30, P < .01).
The study suggests that the poorest of the poor are not the first beneficiaries of the public programme. Most importantly, the present findings demonstrate the positive physical and emotional health outcomes of the first 6 months of ART in the Free State, South Africa.