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World AIDS Day 2022
- World AIDS Day is recognized on December 1st this year!
- Did you know that thousands of people contract HIV every year in America?
- Learn all about HIV/AIDS for World AIDS Day!
MPH, MSN, WHNP-BC
World AIDS Day
December 1st 2022 is World AIDS Day, a global awareness day since 1988 promoting HIV/AIDS education and advocacy.
HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus, which is a life-long health condition that affects someone’s immune system. Without proper treatment or early detection, HIV can progress to AIDS, also known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, HIV was often seen as a death sentence and took the lives of many people.
Now, there is significantly more research on HIV, education and prevention efforts, and pharmaceutical ways to prevent and manage HIV.
What Is HIV?
HIV is a virus that targets someone’s immune system. HIV has existed for decades but became prominent in America and other parts of the world in the 1980s.
When HIV first entered the public health and nursing sphere, cases were mostly seen among gay men, homeless people, and other marginalized populations.
Unfortunately, because of social stigma associated with homosexuality, HIV was often referred to as a “gay disease.” However, this is far from true, as anyone can contract HIV.
World AIDS Day aims to reduce this stigma and bring awareness to transmission, treatment, and prevention.
How Is HIV Transmitted?
HIV is transmitted via blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breastmilk.
Presently, the most common ways to contract HIV are through sexual contact and intravenous drug use. HIV is not transmitted via air or contact.
Prevention methods for HIV transmission include consistent and correct condom use, single needle use, and regular HIV testing for those who are sexually active or using IV drugs.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of HIV?
When people contract HIV, signs and symptoms are often seen in three stages.
Stage 1, also known as the acute HIV infection stage, is when someone has a high HIV viral load in their blood. People in Stage 1 often have several flu-like symptoms, such as fever, night sweats, and rash. Stage 1 HIV can often have similar clinical presentations to other infections, which can make early detection and diagnosis overlooked sometimes.
Stage 2, also known as the chronic HIV infections stage, is when someone still has an active HIV viral load and may or may not have any symptoms. If people receive treatment in this stage, they will most likely not progress to Stage 3, also known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Stage 3 was much more common years ago than now. Increased HIV testing sites, education efforts about condom and single needle use, and HIV research have significantly reduced the rates of AIDS.
However, AIDS is still a reality for many people who contract HIV, especially those who do not receive regular HIV medication, HIV testing, or other health services.
How Is HIV Diagnosed?
HIV can be diagnosed via an HIV test, which can involve someone’s blood or saliva sample. If a HIV test is positive, additional bloodwork and a full examination can be done to determine the best plan of care.
How Is HIV Managed?
HIV can be managed with medication known as anti-retroviral therapy (ART). It is important to note that there is no single way to manage HIV.
HIV management is something to be discussed with specialized HIV health care providers to determine the best course of action for someone’s needs and health goals.
HIV can also be prevented with pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, a once-a-day pill that can reduce the risk of HIV by 99% when taken as prescribed.
What Is the Nursing Role in HIV Awareness?
It is important for health care professionals to ask themselves if they are comfortable talking to their patients about sexual health and drug use as part of an initial assessment and health history.
Even in a health care setting, talking about sex, IV drug use, and similar socially taboo topics can be challenge. Nurses play a critical role in HIV health concerns since they often provide extensive education to patients.
Ways for nurses to take an active role in HIV awareness include:
- Providing HIV educational materials
- Addressing any concerns patients have about their health concerns
- Offering condoms and single use needles
- Reviewing patients’ health records
- Discussing with nursing management on any HIV awareness efforts at the workplace for both patients and staff
Nurses are the most trusted profession for a reason. Patients often turn to nurses for information since there can be so many misconceptions about health, treatment options, and more.
It is also crucial for nurses to recognize that there are several reasons why someone would not want to discuss their health concerns. There are people who have had negative experiences with the health care system and people with cultural differences. It is also important to recognize that stigma and shame with HIV is still very present.
By providing that safer space and having a non-judgmental approach, you can work to establish trust between yourself and the patient. This can provide an opportunity to discuss health history and provide as much education as possible.
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