Shortage of Health Workers in Developing Countries Hindering Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS, Experts Say at AIDS Conference
Health worker shortages in developing countries are hindering efforts to fight HIV/AIDS as more physicians and nurses leave lower-income countries for wealthier nations where they receive higher salaries, HIV/AIDS leaders said Sunday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, in Lesotho, 54% of nursing positions in public clinics and 30% in hospitals are vacant. The shortage of health workers is hindering access to antiretroviral drugs, according to Pheello Lethola, an HIV and tuberculosis specialist in Lesotho. "You need health care workers to administer the drugs," Lethola said, adding, "Without health care workers, drugs are useless."
In Malawi, fewer than 100 physicians are trained to treat HIV/AIDS, and the country needs up to 400 doctors who can treat the disease. Moses Massaquoi, Medecins Sans Frontieres medical coordinator in Malawi, said that half of the HIV-positive people who need treatment, or 140,000 individuals, are not receiving it "because of the terrain of the country, and there are not enough resources to provide services." Nurses who treat HIV-positive people in Malawi earn about $3 per day, he said, adding that it is not surprising that health workers leave the country. "We need to assist poor countries to train more health staff, provide commensurate salaries to enable them to live better lives and carry out their work," Massaquoi said.
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot also discussed the need to increase efforts to encourage health workers to work in developing countries. Piot said that HIV/AIDS is "far from over" and that "[t]here is a need to expand treatment to those who do not yet have treatment" (Lyn, Reuters, 8/3).
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