South African Family Practice

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Views of general practitioners and pharmacists on the role of the pharmacist in HIV/Aids management

RS Summers, E Van der Walt


Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 25.8 million people living with HIV/Aids. In November 2003, the South African government approved The Operational Plan for Comprehensive Treatment and Care for HIV and Aids, which aimed to provide antiretroviral treatment to 500 000 patients by the end of 2007. The successful implementation of this operational plan requires many healthcare providers trained in aspects of HIV. This study aimed to establish and compare the views of general practitioners and pharmacists on the role of the pharmacist in HIV/Aids management and to elucidate an appropriate role for pharmacists. Ethical approval was obtained from the MEDUNSA Research Ethics and Publications Committee.

The study population consisted of general practitioners in the province of Gauteng and community pharmacists in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Two hundred medical practitioners were selected at random from the 7 157 registered in Gauteng. Pharmacist respondents (293 from 879 community pharmacies in Gauteng and 200 from 493 in the Western Cape respectively) were selected randomly. The respondents were contacted individually by telephone and asked to complete a pilot-tested 10-statement questionnaire on their views of aspects relating to a role for pharmacists in HIV/Aids management.

Mean values for positive responses were calculated and analysed (two-sided t test). The response rates for general practitioners and pharmacists were 44.5% and 38.1% respectively. The responses were grouped into two categories, dispensing and advice and testing and treatment. Both groups agreed about the dispensing and advice category. Of the general practitioners surveyed, 95.5% agreed that pharmacists should counsel patients on the correct use of medications and 100% agreed that the pharmacist should be aware of all related side effects and drug interactions of HIV medications, i.e. the general practitioners were comfortable with pharmacists providing a dispensing and advisory role. The groups differed significantly about the testing and treatment category.

GPs were generally not in favour of pharmacists being involved in the testing and treatment of HIV/Aids. The pharmacists surveyed, on the other hand, indicated their willingness to assume an expanded role in HIV/Aids management. A potential role for pharmacists was elucidated. It complements the role of the pharmacist in HIV/Aids management described in the South African Pharmacy Council Position Paper. The differences in views identified in the survey hold serious implications as South Africa struggles to contend with the HIV/Aids epidemic.

For full text, click here:SA Fam Pract 2006;(7):14-14d
AJOL African Journals Online