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Impact of HIV/AIDS on health sector is severe, says study

AIDS Ribbon safety pin.
Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has escalated (Healthfirst)

South Africa's health sector stands to lose a large percentage of its workforce to HIV/AIDS, warns a report by the country's Human Sciences Research Council and the Medical University of South Africa.

The study was conducted in four South African provinces - KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga and North West. "We found that an estimated 15.7 percent of health workers employed in the public and private health facilities located [in the four provinces] were living with HIV/AIDS in 2002," the report said.

This figure reflected the national HIV prevalence among people aged 15 to 49 years, which reached 15.6 percent in 2002.

"The implication is that South African health workers are equally at risk of HIV infection as the general population. [However,] among younger health workers, the risk is much higher. This group (aged 18 to 35 years) had an estimated HIV prevalence of 20 percent," the report noted.

"This means that in the absence of antiretroviral therapy the country can expect, in the future, to lose at least 16 percent of its health workers to AIDS," the study warned.

The impact was likely to be severe, "because younger health workers ... have higher HIV prevalence ratios than older health workers".

The study estimated that 5.6 percent of all health workers who died between 1997 and 2001 had succumbed to HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.

"If another 7.5 percent of deaths, due to TB [tuberculosis] associated with AIDS, are included, then ... an estimated 13 percent of health workers died from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses during this period," the report explained.

Based on the findings of the study, it was recommended that "a human resource plan for the South African health sector should consider the attrition of health workers due to AIDS-related mortality, and more nurses should be trained to compensate for this".

The report said bolstering the health care workforce was particularly important, given the "tendency of international agencies to aggressively recruit South African nurses".

For the full report go to: www.hsrcpublishers.co.za

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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