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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Reporting From NBNA—Promoting AIDS Testing

Published August 7, 2009 10:10 AM by Robin Hocevar

AIDS seemed to be a hot topic Wednesday at the National Black Nurses Association Convention in Toronto. The last full day of the conference commenced with a spirited skit that raised awareness about how nurses can best encourage testing and navigate sensitive issues in caring for patients with recently diagnosed with AIDS.

The topic came up again later in the afternoon in one of the sessions on healthcare in the Caribbean.

Gloria Callwood, PhD, RN, at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, is piloting studies of HIV-infected pregnant and parenting women in Baltimore and the U.S. British Virgin Islands (USBVI). Her findings are disturbing. Here in the U.S., she said 64 percent of HIV-positive women are African-American and many more are affected by syphilis and gonorrhea, or "diseases we thought we'd cured."

Though much of her data is from the USBVI, Callwood reminds us that, "as we become more global, these health conditions are everywhere. Just because I'm a nurse in the U.S. doesn't mean I won't be caring for someone who lived in the Caribbean."

But for those of you who've been dealing with HIV in the U.S. for 20+ years, some of Callwood's data is encouraging. Pregnant and parenting women who are HIV-positive in Baltimore had the same level of self-esteem as their non-diseases affected counterparts.

"In our country, women have been exposed to nurses and to doctors and studies that give them reason for optimism," she said.

To me, it seem like there's an interesting juxtaposition at play. Do you all find that, in your hospital, clinics and community outreach projects, getting people to test for HIV is the hardest part? Are your patients as hopeful during the treatment phase? Anyone have strategies on how we can harness that optimism to encourage others to be tested?

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