AIDS: Knowledge and Attitudes of Student Nurses in Australia and Canada

Pamela Bell, Ann K. Williams

Abstract


The impact of AIDS on health care resources and personnel in Australia has been significant With 2,527 diagnosed cases of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) to March, 1991 (AHSR, 1991), nurses, more than ever, must acquire knowledge and clarify their values about the disease AIDS. This impact has been particularly evident in the State of New South Wales with 1,570 diagnosed cases of AIDS (approximately 30.5 cases per million population per annum), representing 62.5% of the national total (AHSR, 1991). When compared with statistics from other countries, with the exception of the United States and Africa, the number of diagnosed cases of AIDS in Australia (approximately 148 cases per million population), is relatively high. For example, in April 1991 Canada reported 41 cases per million population (WHO 199 la), and a total of 71.6 cases per million were reported in the United Kingdom (WHO 1991b). By contrast, the United States had 145 cases per million population and 650 cases per million were reported from the Congo (WHO, 1991a). Indications are, however, that the numbers diagnosed with AIDS in Australia will increase significantly within the next decade, given the relatively late entry of the disease into this country, the long incubation period of the virus and the numbers of séropositive individuals in Australia. The National Centre In HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research has estimated the number of séropositive individuals in Australia in March 1991 as between 17,619, approximately 12,769 of whom reside in New South Wales (AHSR, 1991). These figures, however, are conservative estimates, as legislation regarding the notification of HIV-positive cases is ambiguous. It would appear that Australian health care professionals will increasingly be called upon to care for greater numbers of people with AIDS. Furthermore, because of the nature of the disease and the fact that it is largely refractory to medical treatment, nurses, more than any other health care professionals, are, and will increasingly be, on the "front line" of AIDS patient care. (Armstrong-Esther & Hewitt; 1989; Kelly, St. Lawrence, Hood, Smith & Cook, 1988; Lester & Beard, 1988).

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