News 24, Aids to 'devastate' healthcare, 12 September 2004

Johannesburg - The increasing number of HIV positive healthcare professionals will have a devastating impact on the South African health system, already under pressure from growing number of HIV/Aids patients.

"The effective prevention and care of HIV and Aids requires a strong health system," SAA-Netcare director Dr Andrew Jamieson said on Sunday, commenting on an article published in the British Medical Journal last week.

The article attempted to assess the impact of Aids-related illnesses and death among the professionals on delivery of healthcare services in central and southern African countries.

"We're going to run out of people before we run out of money," the article read, also warning that very little attention had been paid regarding the HIV prevalence among health workers and its impact on health systems.

Data 'sketchy

"Although the potentially devastating impact of HIV and Aids among health professionals on the capacity and integrity of the South African healthcare system has been acknowledged, only preliminary and sketchy data exist in this regard," Jamieson said.

He said "almost nothing" was known on the rate of HIV/Aids infection among doctors while shortage of nurses could be linked to the pandemic and also the emigration of nurses to other countries.

However, said Jamieson, an investigation undertaken by the Human Sciences Research Council in 2002 showed more than 15% of health professionals were infected, the nursing profession being the most affected. Illness, death

Researchers found the impact of the epidemic on the health system could be felt through loss of staff due to illness and death.

Patient numbers would also increase the burden.

According to Jamieson the study also found "African health workers had a much higher prevalence of HIV than other race groups".

He said the "depth and duration" of the pandemic could be moderated by the professionals modifying their sexual behavioural and antiretroviral treatment.

Edited by Elmarie Jack




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