Weak Health Care Systems, Worker Shortages Undermining Efforts To Deliver HIV/AIDS Drugs in Africa, WHO Official Says
Weak health care systems and a shortage of health care workers are undermining efforts to deliver antiretroviral drugs to Africa, Kevin De Cock, director of the HIV/AIDS Department at the World Health Organization, said Friday, Reuters Health reports. De Cock said Africa has a shortage of at least one million health care workers, and health care infrastructures on the continent over the past 20 to 25 years have collapsed. In addition, Africa has "labs that don't work, supply chains that don't exist and diagnostics that are missing," De Cock said, adding that "it is very obvious, very quickly, that the elephant in the room is not the current price of drugs." According to De Cock, some of the most important global challenges are sustaining the commitment to provide universal access to antiretrovirals and generating political dedication to strengthen health care systems that have deteriorated. De Cock said WHO in the coming years will focus on broadening HIV testing and counseling; enhancing prevention efforts; boosting access to treatment; strengthening health care systems; and increasing funding for surveillance, monitoring and research. According to De Cock, WHO next month at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto plans to launch a health care workers initiative. The program, called "Treat, Train and Retain," will seek to tackle the problems of retaining health care workers in Africa, which has 24% of the global burden of disease and 3% of health care workers, Reuters Health reports (Reaney, Reuters Health, 7/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.