HIV/AIDs certified RNs perform a variety of tasks in their everyday work. Because of the patient population they serve, education plays the most significant role in their job.

HIV nurses manage HIV-positive patients from when they are first diagnosed and manage their care long-term. With newly diagnosed HIV patients, the RN must assess the patient for risk factors related to lifestyle, educate on the disease process, discuss treatment options to include medications and lab work, and provide emotional reassurance and counseling services if patients are agreeable.

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HIV/AIDS nurses monitor their patients long-term. For example, they perform lab testing every few months to check CBC, chemistry panel, viral load, CD4 to monitor immunity, and ongoing STD screening. The lab work helps nurses to determine the next steps in care. They also monitor for high-risk behaviors that place the patient more at risk for transmitting HIV/AIDS or other STDs and provide counseling and education to reduce the risk.

Nurses must also monitor the patient's response to HIV medication, not only to include lab work but also tolerance to the medication. Some patients develop GI upset or liver problems when on the medications, so patients should be assessed periodically to look for warning signs related to medication side effects.

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Nurses also monitor for any psychosocial needs the patient may have. Many patients and families need ongoing counseling services to help cope with the diagnosis. Some patients even experience the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance) and need support throughout the process. Ensuring patients have proper social support and an outlet for their frustrations and concerns is crucial.

HIV/AIDs certified nurses are extremely valuable to the patients they serve. They must be caring, direct, and emotionally strong on a day to day basis. They develop long-term relationships with their patients, and while they may end up losing patients, they also see patients live long, fulfilling lives despite living with a life-changing diagnosis.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN

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