This study investigates the experiences of doctors who perform elective surgical procedures in an area of South Africa with a high incidence of HIV and AIDS. A qualitative study approach was adopted. Interviews were individually conducted with 15 doctors. The transcribed interviews were read four times, each with a different data-collection purpose, and follow-up interviews were carried out when it was necessary to complete the data set. Surgical doctors from two semi-urban hospitals and one rural hospital in northern KwaZulu-Natal province took part in the study. The analysis of the interviews rendered four areas of concern in the experiences of doctors who perform surgery on HIV/AIDS patients. These were: personal factors, patient factors, factors relating to the structure of the health system, and factors concerning protocols for the treatment of patients with HIV or AIDS. Although the doctors were altruistic in their approaches to operating on HIV/AIDS patients, they commonly mentioned the increased levels of stress they experience as a result of a multiplicity of issues surrounding the treatment and care of an HIV/AIDS patient specifically. The public health system has not made special arrangements to deal with the increased patient loads in hospitals as a result of the HIV epidemic, and this will have to be addressed as the number of HIV/AIDS patients increases.
Keywords: interviews; occupational risks; occupational stress; public health sector; southern Africa; surgeons
African Journal of AIDS Research 2010, 9(1): 11–16