Independant On-line, 'HIV cases overwhelm our state hospitals', 30 January 2004

By Christelle Terreblanche

Nearly half of all patients in state hospitals were HIV-positive, according to a secret report done for the health department.

This figure is among the alarming findings in a report entitled "The impact of HIV/Aids on the health sector", published last year but kept under wraps.

The report, leaked to Independent Newspapers, was based on an in-depth study during 2002 under the direction of Dr Olive Shisana, executive director of the Human Sciences Research Council's programme on the social aspects of HIV/Aids.

Aspects of the report's findings were discussed at last year's national Aids conference, but the government has so far refused to release the full 175-page report.

The research found that Aids patients have started "crowding out" other patients from hospitals as the impact of HIV/Aids is increasingly taking its toll on both health workers and health facilities.

In public hospitals about 46 percent of patients were HIV positive, the report said.

Patients were asked for their consent to be tested and whether they wanted to know the results.

"The finding that almost half of the patients admitted to hospital are HIV-infected, demonstrates the massive increase in the burden placed on health care facilities", the report stated, adding that this meant almost half of the normal amount of beds were no longer available to other patients.

In addition, people who were HIV positive tended to stay in hospital for longer, with an average of 13,7 days, compared to 8,2 days for non-HIV patients.

The report also warned the government to train more nurses as up to 16 percent of health workers were likely to die from Aids between 2002 and 2007, particularly if they don't get anti-retroviral treatment. Nearly 29 percent of all deaths of health workers were attributable to Aids.

More and more health workers infected with the HI virus are also having to work harder than before due to the extra demands of Aids patients, the report said.






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