Will Universal Access to Antiretroviral Therapy Ever be Possible? The Health Care Worker Challenge
The United Nations millennium development goal of providing universal access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for patients living with HIV/AIDS by 2010 is unachievable. Currently, four million people are receiving ART, of an estimated 13.7 million who need it. A major challenge to achieving this goal is the shortage of health care workers in low-income and low-resource areas of the world. Sub-Saharan African countries have 68% of the world’s burden of illness from AIDS, yet have only 3% of health care workers worldwide. The shortage of health care providers is primarily caused by a national and international ‘brain drain,’ poor distribution of health care workers within countries, and health care worker burnout.Even though the millennium development goal to provide universal access to ART will not be met by 2010, it is imperative to continue to build on the momentum created by these humanitarian goals. The present literature review was written with the purpose of attracting research and policy attention toward evidence from small-scale projects in sub-Saharan Africa, which have been successful at increasing access to ART. Specifically, a primary-care model of ART delivery, which focuses on decentralization of services, task shifting and community involvement will be discussed. To improve the health care worker shortage in sub-Saharan Africa, the conventional model of health care delivery must be replaced with an innovative model that utilizes doctors, nurses and community members more effectively.