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Health workers fare poorly
in Aids quiz
Posted Tue, 11 May 2004
A quiz among health care workers at a Durban hospital had exposed
"substantial gaps" in their knowledge of HIV/Aids, delegates to a
conference on the disease heard on Monday.
However, they were unlikely to be different from health workers at
other facilities, McCord Hospital staff doctor Kerry Uebel said.
She was speaking at the second African conference on social aspects
of HIV/Aids research, being held in Cape Town.
Uebel said 103 of the 500 staff members at the hospital answered a
questionnaire administered last month.
Doctors scored an overall 81.4 percent, trained nurses 49.7 percent,
and pupil nurses a "very low" 24.4 percent.
In one question, respondents were asked to give a true, false, or
"don't know" reply to three statements related to needle stick injury.
· that a
rapid test the same day would tell if the person had been infected with
HIV by that injury;
· that a
staffer who went onto antiretroviral (ARV) treatment after the injury
would at the same time be cured of pre-existing HIV infection; and
ARV drugs for one month would decrease the chance of getting HIV from
The third option was the only correct one, Uebel said.
The mean score of the 13 doctors who answered this question was 95
percent, but of the trained nurses only 40 percent.
Uebel said she would not make much of the doctors' score, as there
was an issue of whether people had understood questions properly, but
the nurses' figure "worries us a lot".
"On that score they basically failed," she said.
Questioned on the uses of the common drugs diflucan — used for
treating thrush and cryptococcal meningitis — and bactrim — for a form
of pneumonia — doctors did "fairly well" while the trained nurses' score
was 46.7 percent.
Uebel said there was a lot of ignorance about the benefits of ARVs,
in part because the only people on ARVs that ward nurses saw were those
who were going to die.
Uebel, who as staff doctor tends to the health care needs of hospital
employees, said probably one in five staff at McCord were HIV positive,
of whom she guessed two thirds knew their status.
No staff had been prepared to publicly disclose their HIV status.
She said there was a need to address health care workers' ignorance
about HIV, and to encourage "positive living".
At McCord there was a proposal to do this through mini-workshops at
the time of shift changes, informing people both about the hospital's
own HIV programme and about ARVs and their benefits.
She said she would be encouraged if a health care worker felt
confident and supported enough to talk publicly about his or her
experiences as a person living with HIV/Aids.
McCord is an independent Christian hospital which receives a state
In another presentation, Human Sciences Research Council researcher
Lebogang Letlape said 80 percent of 222 South African health facilities
surveyed in 2002 had indicated they needed more staff to cope with the
increasing patient load due to HIV/Aids.
The need was highest in public hospitals, followed closely by primary
health care facilities.
She said the survey showed that only 65 percent of these facilities
has adequate sterilising equipment.
Thirty percent never stocked sterilising equipment, and half of them
never stocked HIV test kits.
She said policy on admissions and length of stay needed to be revised
to guarantee treatment for both HIV positive and negative patients.