U.S. Should Establish Initiative To Mobilize Health Workers to Countries Affected by HIV/AIDS, Commentary Says
HIV/AIDS is "essentially the black death of the 21st century, killing on a massive scale and threatening to cripple economies and topple governments," Fitzhugh Mullan of George Washington University's Department of Health Policy writes in a commentary in the Feb. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to Mullan, the "sheer volume of health workers needed to tackle" HIV/AIDS and the "health systems to support their work" are "off the scale of any previous public health campaign." This issue is "compounded by the impoverished nature of the health systems in many countries where HIV/AIDS is rampant and, in particular, by the critical shortage of physicians, nurses and other health workers in these nations," Mullan writes, adding that there can be "no meaningful response to HIV/AIDS without sufficient health workers to plan, implement and sustain the effort." According to Mullan, the U.S. should establish a "bold national program similar to one proposed" in a 2005 Institute of Medicine report that would "mobilize the numbers of U.S. health workers ready to commit to working abroad in the long-term battle against HIV/AIDS and other diseases of poverty." He adds that long-term placements for U.S. health workers are necessary to "help build training programs, create pharmacy distribution networks, monitor patients and maintain treatment ... for years." Such a commitment from the U.S. would "provide benefit well beyond the patients treated, the health workers trained or the medical schools staffed," Mullan writes, adding, "This commitment would be a highly tangible manifestation of U.S. generosity, a contribution by gifted and trained Americans" and a "restatement of the U.S. commitment to the global community." A U.S. initiative to mobilize health workers to countries affected by HIV/AIDS would be a "small program with a big footprint," Mullan writes, concluding, "Like the Peace Corps, it would say something about the United States -- a message the world needs to hear" (Mullan, JAMA, 2/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.