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Influence of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPfAR) on career choices and emigration of health-profession graduates from a Ugandan medical school: a cross-sectional study
  1. Francis Bajunirwe1,
  2. Leonidas Twesigye1,
  3. Michael Zhang2,
  4. Vanessa B Kerry2,3,
  5. David R Bangsberg1,2,3,4
  1. 1Departmernt of Community Health, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara, Uganda
  2. 2Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Center for Global Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Francis Bajunirwe; fbaj{at}


Objective The purpose of this study was to determine the current work distribution of health professionals from a public Ugandan medical school in a period of major donor funding for HIV programmes. We explore the hypothesis that programmes initiated under unprecedented health investments from the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief have possibly facilitated the drain of healthcare workers from the public-health system of countries like Uganda.

Design Cross-sectional study conducted between January and December 2010 to survey graduates, using in-person, phone or online surveys using email and social networks. Logistic regression analysis was applied to determine ORs for association between predictors and outcomes.

Setting Located rurally, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) is one of three government supported medical schools in Uganda.

Participants Graduates who completed a health-related degree at MUST.

Main outcome measure Location of health profession graduates (Uganda or abroad) and main field of current job (HIV-related non-governmental organisation (NGO) or others).

Results We interviewed 85.4% (n=796) of all MUST alumni since the university opened in 1989. 78% (n=618) were physicians and 12% (n=94) of graduates worked outside Uganda. Over 50% (n=383) of graduates worked for an HIV-related NGO whether in Uganda or abroad. Graduates receiving their degree after 2005, when large HIV programmes started, were less likely to leave the country, OR=0.24 (95% CI 0.1 to 0.59) but were more likely to work for an HIV-related NGO, OR=1.53 (95% CI 1.06 to 2.23).

Conclusions A majority of health professionals surveyed work for an HIV-related NGO. The increase in resources and investment in HIV-treatment capacity is temporally associated with retention of medical providers in Uganda. Donor funds should be channelled to develop and retain healthcare workers in disciplines other than HIV and broaden the healthcare workforce to other areas.

  • Public Health

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