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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Hospitals a 'High AIDS Infection Risk'
Business Day (Johannesburg)
August 6, 2003
allAfrica.com (08.05.03) - Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Preliminary findings of a recent study of South Africa's health care system sketch a portrait of poor clinical practice, inadequate sterilization facilities and a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among young health care workers. Commissioned by the Health Department and conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council, the study surveyed 2,002 health care workers and 2,000 patients in more than 202 hospitals and clinics across South Africa. The survey data were presented Monday at the South African AIDS Conference 2003 in Durban.

"Thirty percent [of the facilities surveyed] never stocked sterilizing equipment and only 40 percent of professional health care workers were trained in universal precautions, [raising] the question of blood-borne infection in health care facilities," said Dr. Olive Shisana, executive director of HSRC's HIV/AIDS research programs.

Only 86 percent of health care workers had access to protective gloves, and 56 percent had access to protective gowns. Fifty-nine percent of the facilities never stocked HIV testing kits. More than 16 percent of health care workers surveyed were HIV-positive, with a higher proportion among young workers; 20 percent of those ages 18-35 were HIV- positive, compared with 16.6 percent of those ages 36-45.

"This has major implications for the future supply of health care professionals," said Shisana. Based on the Statistics South Africa finding that there were 375,670 AIDS-related deaths in 2000, she said an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 health care workers had died from the disease that year. The epidemic is exacting a heavy psychological toll on health care workers, with more than half saying that they were exhausted and 39 percent reporting low morale, Shisana said.

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