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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Africa HIV fight needs new recruits
Aids orphans
Many children have been orphaned by Aids
A crisis in recruiting health professionals is severely hampering work to tackle the HIV pandemic in Africa, a leading charity has warned.

The international development charity VSO has launched an appeal for health workers to join the fight against HIV in Africa.

At present, 85% of HIV-related health placements are unfilled.

Last year only one out of the 17 placements waiting to be filled was taken by a British HIV professional.

This year demand has trebled, with 19 volunteer requests becoming available in the first four months. So far only two UK professionals have been found to fill them.


The most frustrating thing is that these skills are needed now

Cathy Brown, VSO
VSO says the need for HIV/Aids professionals in Southern Africa is desperate, particularly in rural areas where there is little or no access to health education and where the virus remains a taboo subject.

Health workers from the UK with HIV expertise can help break these taboos and give advice, care and training where it is most needed.

And by influencing community leaders and traditional practitioners, health workers can have a longer-term impact on the wider community.   

The lack of health volunteers goes against the general trend at VSO which has sent record numbers over the last two years.

Cathy Brown, head of health recruitment, said: "The most frustrating thing is that these skills are needed now.

"As each day passes the crisis gets worse, in South Africa one in five people under the age of 30 are infected, and the figures are rising.

"Aids undermines every other area of development that VSO is involved in - it is quite simply the most urgent crisis we have ever had to face.

"If you are a health professional there will never be a more crucial time for you to use your skills."

Recruitment campaign

VSO will launch a health recruitment campaign at a seminar in London on Wednesday.

A series of hard-hitting adverts will alert HIV/Aids professionals, Health Educators and Community Nurses of the urgent need for their skills.

Ms Brown said there was a growing interest among health professionals in working with HIV patients.

But she said the charity had to look at ways to make the overall package more attractive, such as offering postings for families.

Current vacancies urgently awaiting applications include:

  • Community-based health worker, rural Kenya
  • School's Health Programme Advisor in the capital of Namibia, Windhoek
  • STD/HIV Counselling Support Officer, Benue State, Nigeria
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See also:

29 Mar 01 | Health
Aids crippling parts of Africa
10 Jul 00 | Health
Aids effect 'like Black Death'
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