The Supply Chain Workforce: Key for Improving Response to HIV/AIDS

Abbie HeffelfingerIt was my intention to focus on attending events related to health workforce and supply chain management while at my first International AIDS Conference. However, with a conference program the size of a phone book, I quickly became overwhelmed and selected the first event on the list: “Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the HIV response.” With such a broad topic, I expected the discussion could extend in a multitude of directions and I figured it would be a well-rounded first session.

Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham opened the session. Graham emphasized the need to remain focused on fighting the AIDS pandemic despite budget challenges in the US government. A recent minister of health from Lesotho, M. Ramatlapeng, guided the conversation toward the need to prioritize investment for impact. And when it came time for Bill Gates to share his view on the means by which to create a world without AIDS, he was quick to emphasize that we have a long way before that dream will become reality. He explained that while he sees a vaccine as the ultimate solution, it should not distract from other efforts. It remains essential to commit additional money toward research for new prevention tools and better systems of delivery.

From Bill Gates’ presentation onward, every session I attended seemed to relate back to health workforce and supply chain management. I went to a session on male circumcision and was shown graphs of health worker distribution, burnout levels, and task shifting. The presenters discussed the challenges in distributing sterile equipment for circumcision, and the conversation always came back to the human resources relied upon for delivery. So I’m delighted that this Thursday’s satellite event on achieving excellence in the supply chain workforce seems perfectly timed to tie together so many of the issues that have already arisen in sessions, presentations, and conversations during the conference.

The supply chain workforce plays a vital role in the realization of global and country health goals, including the Millennium Development Goal for combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. The people who work on their countries’ health supply chain are key to ensuring access to the medicines and other commodities needed for optimal health outcomes. They reach across nearly every area of discussion at the International AIDS Conference. The conference itself exemplifies a network of interconnected resources reliant upon each other for delivery. People have come from all around the world to connect to each other and share resources to solve a problem.

If you are at the conference please join us on Thursday, July 26, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Mini Room 6. For those who are unable to attend, we will be creating a podcast of the event and look forward to sharing the experience with you virtually!

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Photo by Carol Bales