Seeking the attitudes and perceptions of the Greek primary-care professionals on voluntary work in caring for people with HIV/AIDS
Background: During the last two decades Greece has moved towards a national health system. However, in a country with limited economic resources the necessity for reducing the increasing costs of the health care services by an effective use of available human resources, such as community volunteers, becomes inevitable. This paper reports the findings of a pilot study on attitudes and perceptions of primary-care staff towards voluntary work for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/ acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients. Methods: Of the 300 primary-care professionals who are serving the health centres of the largest area of Athens, a sample of 153 was selected. The population surveyed was predominately female (n = 104, 69.3%) and most of them (n = 77, 50.7%) were between 31 and 40 years of age. A 28-itern questionnaire was used, especially designed to investigate attitudes and perceptions of primary health care (PHC) professionals regarding the contribution of volunteers to HIV/AIDS-related programmes. Results: Most of the respondents (n = 131, 85.6%) reported little or no experience of caring for HIV/AIDS patients and only 14 (9%) reported participation in any voluntary programmes. Eighty-eight per cent of patients (n = 135) consider the participation of volunteers in AIDS programmes as very useful and the vast majority of the participants pointed out the usefulness of the participation of health professionals and other influencing persons in voluntary programmes. Participants also suggested that sharing time with HIV patients and families, offering emotional support and practical help and distributing information leaflets for the general population should be the volunteers' contribution in AIDS-related programmes. The PHC professionals' role in voluntary programmes is considered by the 91 respondents (59.5%) as 'planning and organizing', for 66 (43.1%), 'coordinating' and for 37 (24.2%), 'supporting'. Although the majority of the participants (n = 90, 58.8%) said they would participate as a volunteer in an AIDS-related programme, only one-third of the total sample (n = 48, 31.4%) agree with the statement that they have a professional duty to support such a type of programme. Conclusions: Primary-care workers present little experience in caring for HIV/AIDS patients or participating in volunteer programmes and mainly positive attitudes and perceptions to voluntary work. Continuing educational programmes together with awareness activities may increase the involvement of primary-care professionals in the effective management of AIDS in Greece.
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