Africa faces shortage of AIDS medics

Africans infected by HIV/AIDS are receiving cheaper life-prolonging drugs but lack the medical personnel to administer them and manage their treatment, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Wednesday.

Clinton spoke in Tanzania during a six-nation tour of Africa to see how the AIDS pandemic is affecting children on the world’s poorest continent. His foundation is spending some $10 million on AIDS-affected children this year, mainly in rural Africa.

“We can get you the medicine you need and do the same thing for other countries in Africa, but the most important barrier to scaling up the treatment of ARV (anti-retroviral treatment) is the lack of well-trained people throughout every country,” Clinton said.

“You just can’t get the medicine, ship it into a country and drop it from the sky. If it is going to save people’s lives, the medicine must be accompanied by instructions, monitoring, by follow-up and changing the medicine if necessary,” he added.

Clinton was speaking at the launch, attended by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, of a programme to train 30 medical staff every year to work in remote and rural areas.

Africa has the lowest number of doctors per person in the world and the highest prevalence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

In the whole of sub-Saharan Africa there is an average of 12.5 doctors per 100,000 people. Many doctors and nurses have left the continent seeking better salaries and working conditions in Europe and the United States.

“One of the greatest challenges we face in expanding the HIV/AIDS care and treatment plan is human resources,” Mkapa said.

He predicted that by 2008 Tanzania would have a 20 percent shortfall in staffing for the country’s HIV/AIDS care and treatment plan.

Twenty five percent of the two million Tanzanians infected by HIV have developed AIDS. Only 20,000 are on antiretroviral therapy provided by the government. Tanzania hopes to boost that to 44,000 by the end of 2005.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD