This study uses novel data to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the demographic and economic circumstances facing HIV-positive individuals who have just entered HIV care in Uganda. While the provision of HIV care and antiretroviral therapy (ART) may improve physical health, to achieve the broader goal of improving the quality of life and socioeconomic viability of people living with HIV/AIDS, appropriate social and economic programmes may need to complement treatment. We report results from baseline data of a longitudinal, prospective cohort study with a 12-month follow-up period in two Ugandan HIV clinics. We use t-tests to examine differences across sample subpopulations and in a second step employ multivariate logistic and ordinary least squares regressions. The investigation of retrospective variables such as the respondent's employment and income history, as well as changes in household composition, allows us to draw conclusions about the shocks experienced by households with HIV-positive members. We find that the study participants have experienced job loss and declining household income since testing HIV-positive, mainly due to worsened health status of the respondent. We also find that households use a range of coping mechanisms, such as changes in household composition or borrowing in response to these shocks, but that these strategies are not accessible to all types of households to the same degree. The findings highlight the importance of ART, not only to improve physical health, but also as a first necessary (though potentially not sufficient) step to help households restore their economic capacity. Copyright 2011 , Oxford University Press.