Health workers risk HIV/AIDS with plastic bags 'gloves'

Dar es Salaam- Tanzania (PANA) -- Health workers in Tanzania's rural areas are now quite aware of HIV/AIDS and how the disease is transmitted but many of them lack the proper protective gear.
This has brought new problems as the workers have resorted to using whatever is available to replace rubber gloves, thus making them even more vulnerable to infection.
In a southern Tanzania district in Iringa region, for example, traditional birth attendants (TBAs) use plastic bags, instead of rubber gloves, to assisting expecting mothers during delivery in order to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS.
Health officials in the area said they appreciated the measures the attendants have taken to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS but were worried they could be infected.
"The plastic bags they use are soft and can easily be torn, infecting the attendants," explained Firmat Kisika, the Iringa Rural District Maternal and Child Healthcare (MCH) Co-ordinator.
The co-ordinator told a team of journalists that although trained attendants usually are given some gloves upon completion of their courses, many could not afford continuing buying them.
During the interviews, some of the TBAs said that when plastic bags were not available, they used khanga cloth instead of using bare hands.
"I know that khanga is not safe but what else can I do to assist the mothers?" asked TBA Hadija Mugabe, aged 55.
There have also been cases where some attendants have refused to assist expecting mothers whom they suspected to have already contracted the disease.
Such patients were referred to health centres where protective gear was available, said Mugabe.
At least 60 percent of expecting mothers in Tanzania deliver at home where they are assisted by the TBAs.
With the current lack of protective gear as reflected in Iringa, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection among the health workers is likely to increase, said Kisika.

02 may 2001 20:46:00

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