The Crucial Role of Nursing
Every year on December 1st, World AIDS Day affords us the opportunity to remember the lives of those lost to HIV and AIDS, to honor those dedicated to supporting and caring for those living with or affected by HIV, and to renew our global commitment to HIV prevention, care, and treatment. For World AIDS Day 2017, the theme guiding our reflections is Increasing Impact Through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships, which reminds us of the importance of working toward high-impact interventions that optimize resources and efforts in HIV prevention and treatment.
Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, recently stated, “This theme reflects the United States government’s longstanding leadership in addressing HIV/AIDS both at home and abroad and how we are increasing our impact to move epidemics from crisis toward control. It also highlights the historic opportunity we have to accelerate progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a public health threat in the United States and around the world. We are at an unprecedented moment in the HIV/AIDS response. For the first time in modern history, today we have the tools to change the very course of a pandemic by controlling it without a vaccine or a cure. Controlling the epidemic would lay the groundwork for preventing, eliminating, or eradicating it, which we hope will be possible through continued and future scientific breakthroughs for an effective HIV vaccine and cure.”
In 2014, UNAIDS created the “90–90–90” campaign to advance the goal of global HIV control. Simply stated, this strategy intends that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV will receive sustained ART; and 90 percent of all people on ART will achieve viral suppression. This is certainly a lofty aspiration, but one not easily achieved, since it requires expanded access to testing resources, medications, and laboratory monitoring. More importantly, these benchmarks will only be achieved through a significantly expanded skilled workforce to ensure continued engagement in care systems. But who will lead this charge?
Nursing, of course. Since the earliest days of the HIV epidemic, nurses across this country and around the world have stepped up to provide the skilled care required by those living with—and dying from—HIV disease. As time has moved the epidemic forward, with the advent of life-sustaining medications and expanded prevention interventions, nurses have continued to be the front line in combatting HIV. And over the past three decades, the role of nursing has expanded beyond the bedside to encompass clinical and behavioral research, education and training leadership, policy development, program administration, and patient advocacy and activism.
- Ensuring patients’ rights to equitable and accessible health care
- Providing care for underserved and vulnerable populations
- Providing evidence-based and person-centered care
- Providing care along the full HIV care continuum
- Committing to interprofessional collaboration
- Advance nurse-led care through policies and legislation that support nurses’ true role in HIV prevention, care, and treatment.
- Expand resources, budget allocation, and staffing structures that reflect the central role of nursing to HIV care and achievement of 90–90–90.
- Develop health systems that ensure strong interprofessional collaboration.
- Promote the equitable representation of nurses on health care and HIV decision-making bodies.