Lack of Doctors, Health Workers in Developing Countries Hinders Fight Against AIDS, TREAT Asia Report Says
Shortages of doctors, nurses and health care workers in developing countries are hindering efforts to distribute antiretroviral drugs to people living with HIV/AIDS in the most-affected areas, according to a report released by the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the Therapeutics Research, Education and AIDS Training in Asia at this week's XV International AIDS Conference, in Bangkok, Thailand, the Asian Wall Street Journal reports (Chase/Efrati, Asian Wall Street Journal, 7/13). The report includes a table that compares the number of trained doctors to HIV-positive people in 13 Asian countries. Researchers found that Japan had the best ratio with one doctor for every 24 HIV-positive people, followed by Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. Vietnam had the worst ratio with one doctor for every 11,250 HIV-positive people, followed by Thailand with one doctor for every 6,700 HIV-positive people, Indonesia with one doctor for every 4,630 HIV-positive people and China with one doctor for every 4,200 HIV-positive people, the report says. There are fewer than 200 doctors in China who are trained to administer antiretroviral treatment, the report says (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8).
This shortage of health care workers in developing countries has "deep roots," including illiteracy, lack of education, poverty and famine, according to the Wall Street Journal (Chase/Efrati, Wall Street Journal, 7/13). "The race is to scale up the infrastructure," Kevin Frost, TREAT Asia director, said, adding, "Hand in hand with the availability of treatment is the need to provide it safely." Dr. Patrick Li, principal investigator for TREAT Asia in Hong Kong, said that it is important for HIV-positive people to receive counseling and instructions on when and how to take antiretroviral treatments because "[i]f the complicated regimen is not adhered to, the patients may become resistant to the drugs and it will be even harder to treat them later." (Mitchell, Reuters, 7/12). Without counseling and instruction, "desperate" patients are self-treating, taking incorrect doses, sharing medications with HIV-positive family members or "just dropping out of treatment," the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 7/13). Physicians, nurses and "a range" of other health care professionals and community volunteers should be recruited and trained in affected countries, Helene Gayle, director of HIV/AIDS and TB and Reproductive and Child Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, the Asian Wall Street Journal reports. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that some young U.S. and European doctors are also "filling some gaps," according to the Asian Wall Street Journal (Asian Wall Street Journal, 7/13).