The current U.S. HIV medical workforce is largely composed of the first generation of HIV medical providers who entered the field when they were in training more than 20 years ago. Today, the HIV care system faces a serious crisis in care capacity as these clinicians retire without qualified recruits to take their place.

Data from a 2008 survey conducted by AAHIVM shows that more than 32 percent of today’s HIV clinicians will stop providing care over the next 10 years, and there are inadequate numbers of new providers to replace them. The results of this survey were published in the February 2009 issue of The HIV Specialist.

Meanwhile, the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. continues to grow, with more than 55,000 new HIV infections occurring annually.

Shoring up the pipeline of qualified HIV medical providers is an extended process that requires years of targeted interventions. The practice of HIV medicine often requires a hybrid of HIV expertise and sharp primary care skills to address the co-morbidities that people with HIV develop as they live longer with the disease. Serious co-morbidities, such as hepatitis C, lipid disorders, mental disorders and cancers are common among people with HIV and often require co-management with or referral to other specialists.

With the growing number of people living with HIV, a failure to promptly address HIV medical workforce issues could lead to catastrophic gaps in the HIV care system – risking lives and the public health of communities across the country.