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Aids hits Africa's health staff


More African health staff are being lost to Aids than are being enticed to work abroad, a study says.

The death rate in Zambia's Lusaka and Kasama districts is double the number who applied to work in the UK - the so-called brain-drain, the Lancet said.

Researchers from Boston University in the US found that the average age of death from Aids was just 38.

Experts said the major problem was that people with HIV struggled to get access to antiretroviral drugs.

Report author Frank Feeley, from the university's international health and development centre, said: "Policymakers might be tempted to focus on stopping emigration as the best strategy to strengthen the African civil service.

"Undoubtedly, the pay of health professionals is low and the burden of disease in the population makes the job difficult. But the dead do not complain about conditions of service.

"It is time to put more effort into keeping HIV-positive professionals alive and serving in national institutions."

His research showed that there was an annual death rate of 3.5% for nurses and 2.8% for clinical officers - medical assistants - in the Lusaka and Kasama districts.

If this was applied to all the nurses in the country it would mean the number of deaths in a year - 298 - would be nearly double the number applying for registration in the UK - 169.


He said the low average age of death suggested that "Aids rather than diseases of advancing age is responsible for most of the deaths".

And he called on governments to make antiretroviral therapy more available.

"Stopping the brain drain requires an unprecedented level of co-operation.

"Keeping HIV-positive professionals alive and at work in their home countries is a simpler task and one that we know how to do."

A spokeswoman for the Terrence Higgins Trust charity said: "HIV affects all levels of society - the medical profession is no different.

"We know that the health workforce is losing workers and this is partly because of a lack of access to drug treatment which can keep people working.

"This has the added problem that there is then less professionals to look after the sick. Action is needed."


Copyright © 2006 -BBC News, Publisher. All rights reserved to BBC Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be clered through the BBC.

Information in this article was accurate in August 4, 2006. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.