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Inadequate Health Infrastructures in Africa Limiting Number of Patients Receiving HIV/AIDS Care, Boston Globe Reports

February 24, 2005

More than 20 sub-Saharan African countries are limiting the number of new patients receiving HIV/AIDS care because of insufficient health infrastructures and a shortage of health care workers, problems that pose a "major new obstacle" for expanding treatment programs in the region, the Boston Globe reports. African physicians, Bush administration officials and HIV/AIDS advocates say that some sub-Saharan African countries are experiencing capacity problems in health clinics after enrolling a few thousand patients in antiretroviral drug programs, according to the Globe. Although these countries face future challenges in HIV/AIDS treatment, many people say that getting to this point "represents a significant accomplishment," the Globe reports. "We have moved from destructive chaos four years ago, when the epidemic was wreaking havoc and little was being done, to a kind of happy chaos," Paul Zeitz, head of the Global AIDS Alliance, said, adding, "We want these kind of problems. Now we need to rapidly upgrade health systems to improve capacity." The largest long-term problem facing African antiretroviral treatment programs is the lack of trained health care workers, according to the Globe. Dr. Jim Yong Kim, director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS Program, said that donors will have to find ways to increase health workers' salaries in developing countries to prevent them from leaving their jobs. Zeitz said, "There are a ton of vibrant people who would love to get trained as community health workers. It would help the unemployment problem in many countries." Other African countries "are still not ready to start" antiretroviral drug treatment programs, the Globe reports. "[D]rug-distribution systems are a massive, massive problem," Mark Dybul, deputy chief of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, said, adding, "It's not just the supply chain, it's capacity overall. We're going from doubling or tripling the number of people on therapy, and the production capacity isn't there" (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 2/24).

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