Nearly Half of Patients in South African Public Hospitals HIV-Positive, ‘Secret’ Report Says
Nearly 50% of all patients in South African public hospitals were HIV-positive in 2002, according to a "secret" report completed for the Department of Health, the Saturday Star/Independent Online reports. The 175-page report, titled "The Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Health Sector," was based on a 2002 study led by Dr. Olive Shisana, executive director of the Human Sciences Research Council's program on the social aspects of HIV/AIDS. Researchers found that AIDS patients have begun to "crow[d] out" other South African patients from hospitals, as 46% of the patients in public hospitals have HIV infection. Researchers also found that people living with HIV/AIDS tended to have longer hospital stays, with an average of 13.7 days, compared with an average of 8.2 days for HIV-negative patients. The report says, "The finding that almost half of the patients admitted to hospital are HIV-infected demonstrates the massive increase in the burden placed on health care facilities" (Terreblanche, Saturday Star/Independent Online, 1/30). The report called for the government to train more nurses because up to 16% of health care workers are expected to die from AIDS-related complications between 2002 and 2007, the SAPA/News24.com reports. The report also said that because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, "almost half the usual number of beds were no longer available to other patients." The report, which has been "kept under wraps," was leaked to the Saturday Star, according to the SAPA/News24.com (SAPA/News24.com, 1/31).
Democratic Alliance, TAC Respond
The Democratic Alliance political party called for the government to make public the contents of the report, the South African Press Association reports. DA spokesperson Mike Waters said in a statement on Sunday, "It is time Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang realized concealing the findings of the [report] will not make the problem go away." He added that the impact of the epidemic on the South African health care system is directly linked to the health minister's "inability to manage the crisis properly," saying, "The economic and human costs of the ruling party's slipshod handling of the pandemic are immeasurable" (South African Press Association, 2/1). The South African AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign on Sunday after the report was leaked called again on the government to implement its plan to provide antiretroviral drugs to people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, Reuters/AlertNet reports (Reuters/AlertNet, 2/1). The program, which was approved in November 2003, aims to treat 1.2 million people -- or about 25% of the country's HIV-positive population -- by 2008. About 25% of South Africa's economically active individuals are HIV-positive, with about five million total HIV cases in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/28). TAC National Director Nathan Geffen said that although the group has not seen the report, the figures leaked are "not ... surprising." He added, "What this means is that there is no excuse for the government to continue delaying the rollout of the antiretroviral treatment program. That program is essential to stem the growth of the burden on the public health system" (Reuters AlertNet, 2/1).
Washington Times Editorial
"Many observers, especially from large multilateral organizations, believe that there is a direct relationship between success and spending when it comes to AIDS," a Washington Times editorial says. However, some countries, including Uganda, have "achieved great success" in fighting AIDS, proving that "much can be done with little," the editorial says. Although wealthy nations should "do their part to combat AIDS" and President Bush should "start using political capital" to get the five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative "on track," African countries "must also be taken to task," according to the Times. TAC -- "[o]ne of the world's most influential advocacy groups for combating HIV/AIDS" -- "deserves credit for doing so" in South Africa, the editorial says, concluding, "The governments of AIDS-afflicted countries should be rewarded for progress and held to account for failures" (Washington Times, 2/2).