HIV is a fairly new disease, having first appeared at the end of the 1970’s. Because of this, humans have had a very short time to learn how to cope with and prevent the spread of the virus. Because of this, treatment was initially scarce, causing over half of all people with HIV to die within two years of this diagnosis. Over the last few decades, this statistic has dropped dramatically to 15 percent as of 2000 (Bradley-Springer, Stevens, & Webb, 2010, p.2). This is due to newfound discoveries in treatment, prevention and educating the public. Nurses also play a significant role in assisting with the treatment.

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Statistics and Pathology
It has been figured out that in the short lifespan of HIV, white people are among the least affected groups in the United States. When the disease was still young, the most common way of acquiring it was through homosexual intercourse between men. This is no longer the case, and the virus has the potential to spread via other forms of sexual acts, including between heterosexual couples. While this is still one of the most common methods, homosexual contact between men is still the most common cause of HIV (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2012). HIV is most commonly spread through the bloodstream via contact with infected bodily fluids. Because of this, one of the other most common ways of acquiring HIV is through intravenous drug use. It is not uncommon for people who are present or former users of heroin (or other drugs which use needles) to have this disease, even unbeknownst to them. Many of these people have acquired the virus by sharing needles with other people, causing it to travel between bloodstreams. HIV can also be inherited by children of pregnant mothers who are infected with the virus.

How Knowledge of the Disease is Applied
Since this epidemic first began spreading, there have been significant advances in treatment, prevention methods and educating people. Many people are aware of the disease and how it is spread, causing them to become more cautious of their sexual activities. More medications are available to those infected with the virus as well new methods of regular screening to potentially catch the virus early before it sets in.

Testing. It is especially encouraged for those in certain situations be tested for HIV and other STDs on a regular basis if a person is involved in risky, HIV-pone behaviors.
Treatments and Nursing Application. Because of the development of new drugs and treatment regimens, the fatality of this virus has declined dramatically (Bradley-Springer, Stevens, & Webb, 2010, p. 36). These drugs are classified to be used in antiretroviral therapy, and multiple ones are typically used throughout the therapy of an infected patient. Medical professionals are advised against monotherapy (the use of one drug) since it typically causes patients to build a tolerance and resistance to the drug. Some examples of antiretroviral treatments include nonnucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, entry inhibitors and integrase inhibitors. Nurses are required to know how each treatment is meant to affect their patients as well as the risks of discontinuing or misusing these treatments.

They are also obligated to keep track of medical records and potential factors that may affect the progress of a patient’s treatment. With these in mind, it is also their responsibility to adjust treatment accordingly and to provide support to their patients. Furthermore, not every nurse needs to specialize in HIV cases to have an impact on an infected patient. Most should have a basic enough understanding of the virus to properly educate patients with questions as well as the hospitality skills to assist with keeping them comfortable and practicing positive behaviors throughout their treatment.

  • Bradley-Springer, L., Stevens, L., & Webb, A. (2010). Every Nurse is an HIV Nurse. Continuing Education, 110(3), 2.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012, May). DrugFacts: HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse: Intertwined Epidemics | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Retrieved from