October is National AIDS Awareness Month

President Ronald Reagan declared October to be AIDS Awareness Month in 1988. His goal was to educate the public and prevent the spread of this disease. Nurses General Nursing Article


October is National AIDS Awareness Month

AIDS Awareness Month is October

This diagnosis still carries a stigma - how did you get it, how sick are you, can I be near you or live in the same household and not contract it?

According to the CDC, approximately 1.2 million US residents, over the age of 13, have AIDS. I live in one of the states which has a high population of AIDS and care for some patients that are either HIV+ or have AIDS and associated nephropathy.


According the World Health Organization:


These statistics don't show the personal struggles behind the diagnosis.

The 29 y/o woman who is a prostitute, contracted HIV and then developed AIDS as a result of not being compliant with clinic appointments and med regimens. However, she is also a heroin addict who freely admits that obtaining heroin is more of a priority than taking pills. (I met this woman while working with a prison activist group).

One of my current patients contracted HIV due to unprotected sex. However, one of the complications is HIV-related nephropathy. So, now, not only does he have AIDS but also renal failure. And - his retroviral meds must be decreased in order to compensate for his lack of renal function. This type of renal failure results either from an opportunistic infection or as a side effect of HIV medications.

And there are many others affected...millions in fact.

So...where do we go from here?

From the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases there is no cure. However, with effective use of retrovirals, it is possible to attain viral remission where they have undetectable levels of the HIV virus. However, even with viral remission it is still possible to spread the disease which involves a phenomenon known as the HIV reservoir.

Education is the key step in preventing spread of the disease. First, how do you NOT contract HIV/AIDS?

Well - you can't get it through casual contact.

The five main ways to contract HIV

  • unprotected sex
  • from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding
  • injecting drugs with a needle that has infected blood in it
  • infected blood donations or organ transplants
  • a healthcare worker who gets the blood of an infected patient inside their body.

As healthcare workers being exposed to bodily fluids, we must all take the necessary precautions:

There are three main ways HIV can be transmitted in a healthcare setting, including:

  1. if a needle that had been in a HIV-positive patient's body pierces your skin (needle-stick injury)
  2. if infected blood gets into your mucous membrane - such as the eyes, nose or mouth
  3. if infected blood gets into an open cut in your skin.3

If you are a healthcare worker and have experienced one of these three situations, you are said to have 'occupational exposure to HIV'. This means you may be at risk of developing an HIV infection.

Most studies put the risk of seroconversion from a single needlestick (to a healthcare worker) at

Finding a cure through research is the next agenda. It is important that we have a National AIDS Awareness Month as it focuses some attention on the statistics and research that is currently being conducted.

However, wouldn't it be nice if HIV and AIDS were eradicated and no need for a national recognition month?

Trauma Columnist

14-yr RN experience, ER, ICU, pre-hospital RN, 12+ years experience Nephrology APRN. allnurses Assistant Community Manager. Please let me know how I can help make our site enjoyable.

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