BASIC CARE OF THE PATIENT WITH HIV/AIDS
People with HIV/AIDS can develop one – or several – of many different infections or cancers, so it is
difficult to provide a list of signs and symptoms that you may see. But the basic care of a patient with
HIV/AIDS is not difficult. Here are the areas of care you will need to focus on.
- Infection control: HIV transmission can occur if you are careless or do not follow proper infection control procedures. Make sure you wear disposable latex gloves if and when you may have contact with the patient’s blood. Because people with HIV/AIDS may have another infection that can be spread through body fluids like sputum or stool, always wear disposable latex gloves when handling any body fluids/secretions. Wash your hands before and after caring for the patient. This protects you, protects the patient, and protects other people.
- Infection control for the patient: If you currently have a communicable disease – even if it is a simple case of the flu – check with your immediate supervisor before caring for a patient with HIV/AIDS. These patients cannot fight off infections the way a healthy person can. You can also help the patient with HIV or HIV/AISD to learn to live safely and sensibly. Become knowledgeable about the ways HIV can and cannot be spread so you can answer questions and educate your patients.
- Nutrition: Good nutrition is one way to keep the immune system healthy. Encourage your patient to eat well, and explain the reason to him or her. Let your supervisor know if the patient cannot or will not eat.
- Medications: People with HIV must take a large number of tablets/capsules each day to prevent HIV from causing AIDS. Taking large amounts of medications can be difficult. Also, many of these drugs have serious side effects. Although the success rate of the latest drug therapy for treating/preventing AIDS is very good, it can be easy for these patients to become discouraged. They may reason that they have a fatal illness and the complicated therapy and nasty reactions are not worth the possible benefit. However, these drugs have made a big difference, and you can certainly help your patients by reminding them of this, encouraging them to talk about their feelings, and encouraging them to try and follow the treatment plan.
- Emotional and psychological support: Having an HIV infection or AIDS can be emotionally and psychologically devastating. The amount of emotional and psychological assistance you give to these patients will depend on their needs, their resources, and your comfort level. But regardless of how much support you can provide, you must remember not to be judgmental about these patients. Every sick patient, regardless of what type of illness he/she has, deserves a basic level of courtesy and compassion.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF THE PATIENT WITH HIV/AIDS
- In the early stages, the person who has HIV/AIDS will not have any signs or symptoms. Later, as the disease progresses, fever, weakness, weight loss, fatigue, and nausea may be seen. In those situations, it is easy for someone to decide that these may all be due to the flu, or some other simple illness.
- HIV and AIDS are very frightening, and rightly so. However, this fear, along with a lack of information, has caused some people to become irrationally afraid of becoming infected with HIV. There has been a lot of research about HIV transmission, and experts in the field are confident that they know exactly how HIV is transmitted and how it is not transmitted.
HIV is transmitted in these ways:
- Unprotected sex. Some sexual activity is much riskier than others, but any form of very intimate sexual activity that is unprotected can result in transmission of HIV.
- A blood transfusion with HIV infected blood: this is now very rare. The risk of being infected with HIV from a blood transfusion is about 1 in 2,135,000.
- Contact with HIV infected blood. This means that the HIV infected blood must be introduced into the bloodstream. This most commonly occurs when IV drug users share needles. Rarely, this happens when a healthcare worker gets stuck with a needle. It can also happen if a healthcare worker has HIV infected blood splashed into the eyes, nose, or mouth, or HIV infected blood is splashed onto an open cut.
- Through breastfeeding.
- During childbirth.
- During pregnancy to the unborn child.