HIV/AIDS Could Have ‘Devastating’ Impact on Health Infrastructures Due to Effects on Health Care Workers, Opinion Piece Says
The HIV/AIDS pandemic could have a "potentially devastating" effect on health care infrastructures in areas most affected by the disease in large part because of the "alarming" prevalence of the disease among health care workers, Dan Ncayiyana, vice chancellor of the Durban Institute of Technology and editor of the South African Medical Journal, writes in a BMJ opinion piece. Although the impact of HIV/AIDS on health care workers can affect the "capacity and integrity" of a country's health care system, only "preliminary and sketchy data exist in this regard," Ncayiyana writes, adding that nothing is known about the disease among doctors and nursing shortages are "critical" because many emigrate or die of AIDS-related causes. In a 2002 study by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa of 595 health care workers, researchers found a 15.7% prevalence rate among the providers and concluded that HIV/AIDS "will have an impact on the heath system through loss of staff due to illness, absenteeism, low staff morale and also through the increased burden of patient load," Ncayiyana writes. Moreover, "secrecy and silence continue to prevent us from getting the facts," Ncayiyana writes, adding that HIV/AIDS programs in some hospitals are "met with denial, fear, hopelessness and an unwillingness to be tested or treated." Ncayiyana concludes that the "attrition" among health care professionals "undermine[s]" efforts to improve health care systems, strengthen HIV/AIDS prevention and care and address a growing mortality rate (Ncayiyana, BMJ, 9/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.