Caring for Patients with HIV/AIDS
As a nursing assistant, you might need to care for patients with HIV or AIDS. AIDS, meaning “acquired immune deficiency system,” is a disease caused by the infection known as HIV. HIV means “human immunodeficiency virus.”
To acquire AIDS, a person must first acquire HIV. HIV is a virus that can be passed from person to person. A person with HIV can pass the virus to another person through unprotected sexual contact or through other blood to blood contact. Both heterosexual and homosexual men and women can get HIV and pass HIV to each other if their sexual contact is unprotected. Sometimes HIV is passed by sharing needles used to take drugs. Pregnant women who have HIV can pass the virus to their babies in the womb and through breastfeeding.
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, or the system that is designed to fight off infection. Symptoms of HIV include swollen glands, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, diarrhea, night sweats, memory loss, weight loss, and bodily pain. Once HIV develops into the disease AIDS, a person’s immune system is not able to fight off infections any longer. The person may easily get pneumonia or cancer. The result of AIDS is death, as there is no cure for HIV or AIDS.
You cannot get HIV from casual touching, hugging, using the same toilet, drinking from the same glass, tasting the same food, or breathing in when an HIV patient has sneezed or coughed. You cannot get HIV from donating blood in the U.S.
You should always wear gloves when you might come into contact with a patient’s blood or other body fluids. If you are ill with a contagious disease, ask another worker to care for the patient. Caring for patients with HIV or AIDS is much the same as caring for any other patients. These patients appreciate your listening, kindness, and patience as you try to alleviate their pain.