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HIV/AIDS Care Providers Burning Out From Increased Workloads, Flat Funding, AIDS Research Director Says

April 13, 2006

Health care workers caring for people living with HIV/AIDS are "burning out" from increased workloads as patients are living longer but funding for care remains stagnant, Michael Saag, director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said in an interview on Wednesday on NPR's "All Things Considered." According to Saag, who was one of the first U.S. physicians to prescribe antiretroviral medications to HIV-positive people, nurses and social workers are working longer hours without overtime "out of just a love for what they do and a commitment to the cause." Saag said many HIV/AIDS care staff eventually resign because they cannot keep up with the pace, and there are not enough full-time employees to cover the workload. In addition, it is "more and more difficult" to replace staff members because prospective employees could receive the same salary for shift work, according to Saag. "I'm concerned about the future of my clinic because I don't know where the next wave of nurses, where the next wave of doctors are going to come from," Saag said. Saag added that a change in the demographics of individuals living with HIV/AIDS -- who are now those "more disenfranchised from society," such as individuals with low incomes, untreated mental illnesses and substance use problems -- over the last five years is contributing to caregiver stress because their cases are more difficult to manage, and it takes caregivers longer to gain patients' trust (Norris, "All Things Considered," NPR, 4/12).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

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