Commentary & Opinion

"Paucity" of Health Workers "Biggest Limiting Factor" to Providing AIDS Treatment in Developing World, Opinion Piece Says

May 25, 2004

The "paucity of trained health care workers" is the "biggest limiting factor" to providing HIV/AIDS treatment in the developing world, but President Bush could "clear that obstacle by giving more resources directly to African nurses, midwives and doctors," especially those who care for the "destitute and marginalized," Holly Burkhalter, U.S. policy director for Physicians for Human Rights' Health Action AIDS Campaign, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. Health workers have left public sector jobs "in droves" to work in other countries or for nongovernmental groups and foreign universities that are setting up treatment and prevention projects in Africa, Burkhalter says. Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, should not only seek to accomplish the "ambitious" goal of treating two million HIV-positive people under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief but also ensure objectives of "equity and sustainability," Burkhalter says. In addition, Tobias should "jettison an outworn axiom of development policy: that foreign donors should not provide remuneration for civil servants, including health workers," Burkhalter says, adding that it is "past time for the United States to provide resources not just to American universities, contractors and nongovernmental organizations but to African health workers themselves in the form of health insurance and care, salary enhancements ... , school fees and housing allowances." In addition, Bush should request from Congress "additional billions of dollars" to build health infrastructure in developing countries, Burkhalter says, adding that as the world's largest donor to HIV/AIDS programs, the United States must "take the lead in supporting primary health care infrastructure and nourishing Africa's overwhelmed, underpaid" health workers (Burkhalter, Washington Post, 5/25).

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