Brain Drain Hurts Lesotho AIDS Fight: UN Official
August 25, 2005
The brain drain of African nurses migrating to Western countries is crippling the HIV/AIDS fight in Lesotho and other sub-Saharan African nations beset by the disease, UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said Friday. "The country is struggling but the government is single-mindedly determined to fight the virus," Lewis told a news conference at the end of his visit to Lesotho. "The problem now is human capacity. Lesotho like other African countries is struggling with brain drain to countries such as Britain and Canada," he said.
Countries in Southern Africa have some of the highest HIV caseloads in the world. In Lesotho, a tiny, mountainous country of some 1.5 million people, up to 30 percent of adults are HIV-infected. The epidemic is contributing to chronic food shortages as infected subsistence farmers die.
Lewis praised the country's disease-fighting efforts, including declaring HIV/AIDS a national emergency. Unlike some countries in the region, Lesotho has a coordinated AIDS task team that involves everyone from government ministers to traditional healers. The government's goal is to treat 28,000 HIV patients with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) by the end of 2005, but it has only enrolled 5,000 in the program so far.
"For a poor country like Lesotho, the focus should be on treatment and I'm impressed with programs that link with the communities," said Lewis.
However, since Lesotho only has about 250 health workers trained to provide ARVs, it must figure out ways to train more nurses and retain them, Lewis said. "Lesotho is in short supply of nurses. If it doesn't do something about it, it is in trouble, so is the rest of Africa."
08.19.2005; Ntsau Lekhetho
U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS Lewis, WHO AIDS Director Kim Visit Lesotho to Evaluate HIV/AIDS Programs
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.