Providing effective employment supports for persons living with HIV: The KEEP project

Authors: Factors affecting vocational outcomes of people with chronic illness participating in a supported competitive open employment program in Hong Kong
Year Published 2005
Publication Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Volume 22
Number 2
Pages 105-114
Publisher IOS Press

The Kirk Employment Empowerment Project (KEEP) was a three-year demonstration project funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to test strategies for improving employment outcomes of individuals with HIV/AIDS. KEEP sought to identify and test service strategies that would be effective for individuals who have multiple barriers to employment, and individuals from populations that are typically underrepresented in HIV/AIDS research.


The purposes of this article are to (1) describe the KEEP model and (2) provide data regarding program outcomes.


The study setting was the Horizon House, a treatment center for individuals with HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia, PA.


The study sample was 148 individuals who were referred to and accepted for KEEP services. The sample was predominantly African-American (72.3%) and male (60%). A substantial proportion had co-occurring disorders, with over a third report a psychiatric disorder.

Data Collection

Employment tracking data were collected for each participant upon job start, significant job changes, and job end. Initial baseline interviews were conducted by research staff with each participant to obtain demographic data and income, motivation to work and satisfaction with life issues in general as reflected by participants responses to quality of life items. Follow-up interviews were conducted at 6-month intervals for the duration of the project. Descriptive statistics were used to report outcomes for participants.


The study used a pre/post intervention design without a control or comparison condition.


Of 148 participants in the project, 114 (77%) were employed at some point during the project. They held a total of 278 jobs during the project, averaging 2.4 jobs per participant. Sixty-three percent of participants were employed for 90 days or longer during the project, Earnings ranged from $2.50 per hour to $44.23 per hour, with an average hourly wage of $8.49 (median $7.50/hour). Of the 278 jobs, only 4 paid less than minimum wage. The vast majority of all jobs obtained (87.4%) did not include any benefits at any time.


The fact that they achieved such high employment rates in the KEEP project supports the evidence that for people with a variety of disabilities, a history of competitive employment, no matter how limited, can be considered an indicator for future employment success. Employment also contributed to improved health and physical functioning.

Disabilities Emotional disturbance
Populations Male & Female | Hispanic or Latino | Black / African American | White / Caucasian | Urban
Outcomes Employment acquisition
Research Design Single group
Peer Reviewed Yes