HIV/AIDS as an Epidemiological Problem in the US

Many people in different parts of the United States are affected by the problem of HIV/AIDS. This condition has been observed to catalyze numerous implications such as reduced productivity and social problems. The condition is also known to affect every age group, gender, and community. However, some groups such as minorities, lesbians, gays, and young women appear to be affected the most by this illness. When an effective evaluation or epidemiological analysis is completed successfully, it can be easier to understand the prevalence of the disease and implement appropriate preventative measures. This evaluation epidemiology paper, therefore, focuses on the problem of HIV/AIDS in the state of Florida. The paper also describes the nature of the existing surveillance methods and presents a descriptive epidemiology analysis of the disease. The document concludes by presenting three evidence-based plans that will be implemented to deal with this health condition in Miami, Florida.

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HIV/AIDS Background

Mutevedzi and Newell (2014) define acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) as a chronic condition that threatens human life. It is caused by a virus known as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus damages the immune system, thereby making it hard for the body to fight different opportunistic illnesses. Researchers indicate that the signs and symptoms of the disease occur after the immune system is incapable of fighting different opportunistic microbes (Mutevedzi & Newell, 2014). This disease has continued to amaze many scholars and medical experts. Some analysts acknowledge that the disease might have originated in Congo in the 1920s (Mutevedzi & Newell, 2014). However, the condition remains unknown for several decades until in the 1980s when more people developed AIDS across the globe. Scientific breakthroughs have led to the production of medicines known as antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) that make it easier for patients to lead healthy lives.

This condition presents a wide range of symptoms that should be taken seriously. Schackman et al. (2015) indicate that around 40-60 percent of people will develop flu-like symptoms within a month after being infected with the virus. Some of these symptoms include mouth ulcers, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, rashes, fever, and chills (Frieden, Foti, & Mermin, 2015). After infection, patients go through a period known as clinical latency. This phase can last more than ten years. During this stage, many people infect others since they are usually unaware of their health statuses. This phase is followed by the AIDS stage (Huang et al., 2015). People who fail to get ARVs will progress to the stage within 10-15 years. The common symptoms during the phase include weight loss, tiredness, pneumonia, diarrhea, depression, memory loss, dementia, and sores in the mouth or genitals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1.22 million Americans are affected by this illness. Around 38,000 new infections were reported in 2017 (“HIV in the United States,” n.d.). Most of the affected patients are usually unaware of their health statuses (“HIV in the United States,” n.d.). Statistics indicate that over 18,000 deaths are caused by HIV every year in the country. In Florida, it is estimated that around 104,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS (“Florida highlights,” n.d.). Minority groups such as Latinos, African Americans, and homosexuals are affected the most by the condition. Over 5,000 new infections were reported in 2015 (see Table 1). Around 2,000 HIV-related deaths occur every year in this state (Huang et al., 2015). In Miami, the number of citizens living with the disease is around 26,000. The total number of new infections recorded annually is around 1,400-1,450 (“Florida highlights,” n.d.). Statistics indicate that an average of 360 deaths associated with HIV occur annually in this county.

Table 1. A Table of HIV Prevalence Rates.

Prevalence Indicator Nationwide (US) State (Florida) County (Miami)
People living with HIV/AIDS 1.218 million 104,000 26,000
New infections (Annually) 38,000 5,000 1,400-1,450
Deaths (2016) 18,000 2,000 360

Surveillance Methods and Mandated Reporting

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported the establishment of the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS) to promote the surveillance and reporting of different diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The system recommends that every state should report certain diseases to CDC (Frieden et al., 2015). CDC then analyzes the collected information and shares it with different agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The analyzed data is also shared with local and state departments for health.

Additionally, information is transmitted to physicians and practitioners efficiently. The complexity of this condition explains why HIV/AIDS is one of the conditions targeted for federal funding. CDC collects adequate and timely using indicators such as the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, existing prevention measures, opportunistic diseases, and risk factors (Powers, Kretzschmar, Miller, & Cohen, 2014). This mandated reporting model ensures that timely and adequate information is available to different healthcare providers. The ultimate goal is to ensure the challenge of HIV/AIDS is addressed successfully.

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Descriptive Epidemiology Analysis

Studies indicate that the number of persons affected by HIV/AIDS has been declining since 2013 (Schackman et al., 2015). This outcome has been achieved due to the number of preventative measures, awareness programs, testing initiatives, and educational campaigns implemented to deal with the condition. Individuals are encouraged to be diagnosed frequently in order to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.

However, statistics show conclusively that there are some groups that are affected the most by HIV/AIDS. For example, homosexuals account for around 67 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States (Huang et al., 2015). Additionally, Latinos and African Americans are affected disproportionately by this condition. For instance, around 12 percent of all citizens are African Americans. However, 44 percent of all Americans infected with this condition come from this ethnic background. This means that the racial group records the highest rate of HIV diagnosis in comparison with the other ethnicities (Frieden et al., 2015). Similarly, Latinos account for 25 percent of HIV infections in the country despite representing 18 percent of the country’s population (“HIV in the United States,” n.d.).

The financial burden of HIV is extremely high in the United States (“HIV in the United States,” n.d.). It is estimated that the government will spend over 12.1 billion dollars to support the health needs of persons with HIV/AIDS in 2018 (“HIV in the United States,” n.d.). If more people were diagnosed and provided with appropriate medication, the government would save over 1 billion US dollars (Frieden et al., 2015). Additionally, it would be possible to reduce the financial burden associated with opportunistic conditions such as tuberculosis and flu. Most of the affected persons will be unable to engage in economic activities, thereby affecting the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In terms of social costs, the disease disorients the structures of different communities, affects social welfare programs, and forces specialists to focus on the needs of the targeted patients. Consequently, the costs have led to numerous problems such as poverty and increased number of orphans.

HIV/AIDS Diagnosis

In the United States, HIV testing and diagnosis is an area that has received much attention from different stakeholders. Testing is usually completed using an algorithm composed of two unique methods. The first one is known as ELISA while the second is called Western blot (Powers et al., 2014). These two methods are usually combined in order to produce accurate results. The use of the two methods has become the standard for diagnosing HIV/AIDs in the country. The first method (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) entails the use of color change and antibodies to identify the presence of a specific substance. Western blot is a powerful analytical technique that detects proteins in a given tissue homogenate extract or sample.

The Western blot technique is embraced because it has a high positive productive cost. The technique is used as a confirmatory method for testing HIV. This is the case because it tests proteins from infected cells, thereby increasing the level of accuracy. The cost for this method varies from one region to another depending on the implemented HIV prevention programs. In some states, the tests are free in an effort to deal with this epidemic (Schackman et al., 2015). There are several guidelines used to dictate the manner in which this testing method is carried out. For instance, individuals undergoing the test must be supported using existing ethical principles. For instance, they should be counseled and empowered after testing positive (Huang et al., 2015). The informed consent of the individual is crucial before undertaking the test. This means that the test should be conducted on individuals who have already made the needed decision. Finally, the issue of confidentiality must be taken seriously by health practitioners during the process.

Plan to Address this Epidemiological Condition

After finishing school, I am planning to work as a family nurse practitioner (FNP). This role will make it easier for me to meet the health needs of many patients affected by different conditions. One of these diseases is HIV/AIDS. I have settled on it because it continues to claim many lives (Powers et al., 2014). In order to address this disease, powerful measures and strategies will be needed in my county of Miami.

The first plan entails the use of powerful educational campaigns informing more people about the prevalence, signs and symptoms, and challenges associated with the condition. Such campaigns will target individuals aged between 16 and 35 years of age. This age bracket has been recording a high rate of new HIV infections (Frieden et al., 2015). The plan will encourage more individuals to engage in the best practices or behaviors and support one another. Those with the condition will also be empowered to take ARVs. I will measure the outcomes of the plan using a powerful strategy. This means that the number of beneficiaries from the program will be recorded periodically.

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The second plan will focus on different families in the county. It will be appropriate to work and liaise with different families from the Latino and African American racial groups. These races appear to be affected the most by the condition. Family members will be informed about the best ways to protect themselves from the illness (Frieden et al., 2015). More patients will be guided to seek medical care. Every individual will also be encouraged to get tested. The success of this plan will be determined by the number of people who will get tested and those who will begin to use ARV drugs. The outcome will inform the major strategies to be implemented in the future to deal with this disease.

The third approach is to collaborate with health centers, hospitals, and clinics in the community. The rationale for this model is that such facilities will be equipped with adequate posters and manuals that can be distributed to every patient. This move will ensure that the greatest number of citizens is informed about the prevalence of this condition (Powers et al., 2014). The plan will be successful if more people have access to the provided posters. Additionally, every health institution will be encouraged to counsel and encourage more people to be tested. This move will ensure the challenge of HIV/AIDS is addressed successfully in Miami, Florida.

Conclusion

Although the number of persons infected with HIV/AIDS has declined significantly within the past five years, the condition continues to affect the lives of many Americans. It is also notable that more people are unaware of their HIV statuses. This gap makes it impossible for different health departments to implement evidence-based strategies to deal with the health problem. The use of different testing methods such as Western blot and ELISA should, therefore, be embraced in every community. The tests should be completed in accordance with the outlined ethical principles. Finally, nurse practitioners should be on the frontline to implement evidence-based campaigns, support different educational programs, and collaborate with health professionals to guide more people to protect themselves from the condition.

References

Florida highlights. (n.d.). Web.

Frieden, T. R., Foti, K. E., & Mermin, J. (2015). Applying public health principles to the HIV epidemic – How are we doing? The New England Journal of Medicine, 373(23), 2281-2287.

HIV in the United States: At a glance. (n.d.). Web.

Huang, M., Ye, L., Liang, B., Ning, C., Roth, W. W., Jiang, J., … Bond, V. C. (2015). Characterizing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States and China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(3), 1-9. Web.

Mutevedzi, P. C., & Newell, M. (2014). The changing face of the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Tropical Medicine and International Health, 19(9), 1015-1028. Web.

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Powers, K. A., Kretzschmar, M. E., Miller, W. C., & Cohen, M. S. (2014). Impact of early-stage HIV transmission on treatment as prevention. PNAS, 111(45), 15867-15868.

Schackman, B. R., Fleishman, J. A., Su, A. E., Berkowitz, B. K., Moore, R. D., Walensky, R. P., … Losina, E. (2015). The lifetime medical cost savings from preventing HIV in the United States. Medical Care, 53(4), 293-301. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, March 27). HIV/AIDS as an Epidemiological Problem in the US. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/hiv-aids-as-an-epidemiological-problem-in-the-us/

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