'Secrecy and silence' clouds truth of AIDS related deaths among doctors in South Africa

09/09/04

Doctors and nurses with HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, BMJ Volume 329, pp.584-5

A culture of 'secrecy and silence' clouds the true picture of AIDS related deaths among doctors in South Africa, says Dr Dan Ncayiyana, editor of the South African Medical Journal, in this week's BMJ.

Little data exists on HIV rates among doctors in South Africa, but a new study from Uganda also published in this week's BMJ shows a 30% mortality rate in doctors from AIDS related illness. In South Africa a shortage of nurses is critical, says Dr Ncayiyana, as many emigrate or succumb to AIDS related illness. A recent report from a hospital in Durban for instance revealed a climate of hopelessness, following the deaths of four nurses from the illness in as many months. Yet the issue continues to be obscured, and nothing is known about HIV and AIDS among the country's doctors, says Dr Ncyayina.

The possible disastrous impact of high mortality rates among doctors would be even more devastating for South Africa, which treats 10% of the world's AIDS victims. In a country and continent already desperately short of health workers, AIDS related mortality among health professionals must be addressed, argues the author.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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