World AIDS Day: Experts Call for Support for Health Care Workers Worldwide
November 29, 2006
Alexandria, Va. -- This World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2006, the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) is calling on President Bush and Congress to dramatically increase support for beleaguered health care workers worldwide struggling to respond to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic.
On this World AIDS Day, HIVMA honors the 40 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS and the millions who have died from it. The Association also honors the health care workers treating them, who too often work with the least resources in the places where they are needed most. In sub-Saharan Africa, just 3 percent of the world's health care workers struggle to care for 25 percent of the world's burden of all diseases, including the bulk of the world's HIV/AIDS cases, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, in the United States, those caring for low-income, uninsured or under-insured people with HIV/AIDS in the United States are overworked and burning out as the epidemic grows without any additional funding from the Ryan White CARE Act, the payer of last resort.
"Antiretroviral therapy is making a tremendous impact in saving lives around the world, but it doesn't do any good to have medications available if there's no one to deliver them," said HIVMA Chair Daniel R. Kuritzkes, M.D. "The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has made admirable progress providing care and treatment to the developing world, but the only way to sustain a lasting legacy is to ensure an adequate well-trained health care workforce."
PEPFAR's five-year, $15 billion dollar mandate will expire next year. President Bush and Congress must build on the successes the program has achieved by renewing the program and scaling up the amount of funding available to train and support many more health care workers.
Back in the United States, a bill to renew and update the Ryan White CARE Act is currently stalled in Congress. The bill rightly emphasizes access to medical care that can save the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. However, disputes over how funding would be distributed are holding up the legislation.
"The HIV/AIDS epidemic grows by 40,000 new infections a year, but the funding hasn't budged," Dr. Kuritzkes noted. "Many clinics nationwide are working beyond their capacity, but they don't have money to hire new staff to care for all the new patients. And important new testing initiatives beginning soon will identify even more cases. The disease is getting ahead of our ability to respond to it," she said.
He added, "The turf battles holding up renewal of the Ryan White CARE Act wouldn't happen if it were funded realistically. This World AIDS Day, HIVMA calls on Congress and the Bush administration to fulfill their commitment to saving the lives of people with HIV/AIDS by ensuring an ample health care workforce, both here and abroad, to face the growing pandemic."
This article was provided by HIV Medicine Association. Visit HIVMA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.