Report Highlights Shortage of HIV Care Providers in U.S.

Gap widening between number infected and those trained to treat these patients, experts say

FRIDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. medical system is ill-prepared to cope with the number of Americans now infected with HIV, a new report suggests.

Specifically, too few health care providers are adequately trained and experienced in providing the care these patients need, the report authors indicate.

The observation is outlined in the third and final report of a series focused on the state of HIV health care in the United States that was put together by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent, nonprofit organization.

"There will be numerous challenges as the nation begins implementing the [Obama administration's] new National HIV/AIDS Strategy," Paul Cleary, dean of the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., said in a news release from the National Academy of Sciences.

Cleary, chair of the committee that wrote the series, said that the reports set out to articulate "many practical suggestions from the research literature and experts about how to address and overcome the obstacles to a more effective and efficient HIV/AIDS strategy."

Given the widening gap between HIV-care supply and demand, the report emphasizes the need for health-care provider flexibility, in order to overcome the constraints under which many providers labor.

For example, the report authors say that collaboration across facilities should be encouraged, in order to better allocate and share sparse resources among multiple providers. However, at times such task-sharing may run afoul of state regulations, which can limit the ability of providers to share caseload responsibilities.

Released online March 17, the report -- entitled HIV Screening and Access to Care: Health Care System Capacity for Increased HIV Testing and Provision of Care -- also highlights the need for more training to provide caregivers with greater exposure to the demands of HIV care.

Two earlier reports in the series examined barriers to expanded HIV testing and the impact of policies on access and provision of care. The aim of the series is to facilitate the goals of the new National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which the White House has described as a roadmap for policy makers and the public.

That strategy aims to bring about a drop in the rate of HIV infection while at the same boosting access to care among those already infected.

The report series as a whole has highlighted a range of problems and issues that need addressing, according to the news release. Those include the lack of a clear federal policy regarding HIV testing, statewide differences regarding how testing is implemented, obstacles to the provision of rapid HIV testing and discrimination against HIV-positive individuals. Current prison practices are also a concern, the authors say.

The series was sponsored by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.

More information

For more on HIV care, visit the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute.

Alan Mozes SOURCE: U.S. National Academy of Sciences, news release, March 17, 2011

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