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Garry Brough: Nurses must show knowledge and sensitivity in dealing with HIV

Nurses are uniquely well placed to provide person-centred care for people with HIV, but they need to give up outdated attitudes and view it as a manageable long-term condition

Nurses are uniquely well placed to provide person-centred care for people with HIV, but they need to give up outdated attitudes and view it as a manageable long-term condition


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I’ve been involved in HIV peer support since I co-founded the Bloomsbury Patients Network in 1999. In my current role at advocacy organisation Positively UK, I have trained 400 people as peer mentors.

There’s not one training session in which participants haven’t brought up examples of discrimination or lack of awareness of appropriate infection control from healthcare professionals outside the silo of the sexual health or HIV clinic.

In fact, HIV discrimination is unfortunately most commonly reported in healthcare settings. People with HIV continue to report experiences of nurses double gloving, having ‘HIV’ written in large red capitals across their medical notes, or being asked how they ‘got it’.

Reluctance to offer test

Reluctance to offer an HIV test is another example of how HIV stigma is internalised within healthcare providers. Research on the offering of opt-out HIV tests in primary care shows that patients’ acceptance towards being offered the test is generally much higher than that of professionals to offer it.

We hear of particular issues from expectant and new mothers with HIV. Midwives and nurses often do not have sufficient information or fail to give it to the mother.

The focus tends to be on the baby. One woman found out through antenatal testing that she was HIV positive. When she asked about it, a nurse told her that she had HIV and she was going to die.

Linking disparate pathways

If we are to see the ‘end of AIDS’ as heralded by UNAIDS’ 90/90/90 goal for HIV diagnosis, therapy and viral suppression, we must aim higher. To do this, medical professionals must have a greater understanding of what 21st century HIV is and what it isn’t.

Nurses should be the mainstay of long-term condition management for people with multiple long-term comorbidities, which is what those of us with the virus and who are lucky enough to be ageing are likely to experience.

Within an ever-shrinking financial envelope, nurses and nurse specialists alone have the ability to link disparate medical pathways and provide person-centred care that fulfils individual and community needs. But we need them to be well enough informed for us to trust that they will deal with us with knowledge and sensitivity.


Garry Brough is Project 100 Coordinator at Positively UK 

 

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