04 Dec HRH2030 Director’s Digest — December
December 2018: Healthworkers’ Key Role in Sustaining HIV Epidemic Control
Since its inception 15 years ago, PEPFAR has supported health systems—and the many community health workers, nurses, doctors, logisticians, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, counselors, and social service workers that drive it—to ensure over 16 million men, women, and children are on HIV treatment globally. World AIDS Day is an opportunity to reflect on health workers’ key role in sustaining epidemic control. Within HRH2030’s programs, we are supporting health workers to achieve HIV goals all around the world, including in Botswana, Eswatini, Indonesia, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
So, what does the future health workforce look like for sustaining HIV epidemic control? Given the achievements made by many countries—leading to higher performance targets of 95-95-95—that future is almost upon us.
Health workers will be leading HIV integration on the frontlines. Many of the current capacity building efforts to strengthen the HIV health workforce have far-reaching benefits, especially as HIV services are being mainstreamed into primary health care. By further integrating HIV into the broader services that they deliver, health workers will demonstrate how other diseases and programs could also be mainstreamed as well.
Health workers will benefit from advances in technology, leading to more efficient services. Whether increasing self-testing, use of mobile phones or drones, or applying differentiated service delivery models to optimize clinicians’ and community-based workers’ task load (and better meet clients’ needs), the future health workforce for HIV will have their simpler tasks automated, letting them focus on more complex needs.
Health workers with skills for HIV services will help strengthen health systems response for new and emerging diseases. For example, when the workforce has improved capacity for HIV surveillance, their potential to support outbreak response for diseases like tuberculosis and cholera may increase as well, ultimately enhancing global health security. This is also true when we consider workforce skills for managing chronic non-communicable diseases, like diabetes, hypertension, and mental health disorders, which have a growing disease burden.
As more and more countries advance toward epidemic control and HIV moves more to a chronic disease model, health workforce planning will also need to shift. Through the USAID- and PEPFAR-supported HRH2030 program, we are gathering useful evidence and proven approaches to equip health leaders to better train, support, allocate, and manage health workers so that countries can deliver the HIV services their populations need. Please join me in thanking the countless health workers across the globe who have contributed to the great advances we see today in advancing HIV care and treatment around the world!
Project Director, HRH2030