Communicable diseases are contagious because they are transferrable from one person to another. Clinicians and doctors use specific concepts of epidemiology to study these diseases. Some of the major concepts of epidemiology include “risk factors, mortality, and incidence of disease” (Rogers, Mijch, & Brotherton, 2013, p. 65). Such concepts are critical towards understanding the causes, treatments, and impacts of different diseases. Nursing research is relevant to understanding the issues surrounding HIV/Aids. This paper applies the concepts of epidemiology and nursing research to HIV/Aids.
Description of HIV/Aids
Causes and Mode of Transmission
A viral organism known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes this disease. The virus occurs in human blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal fluid of an infected person. The virus destroys the body immune system, thus resulting in Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The HIV begins to destroy the body’s CD4 lymphocytes that defend the body against disease-causing pathogens. The mode of transmission for this disease is not complex. People contract this disease during sexual intercourse or breastfeeding. Mothers can “also infect their babies during birth” (Rogers et al., 2013, p. 64). Unprotected sex is the leading mode of transmission.
HIV has the potential to cause various symptoms in the human body. However, the virus might not cause any symptoms after entering the body. The major “early symptoms include headaches, skin rashes, sore throats, fevers, and swollen glands” (Chen, Shiu, Simoni, Fredriksen-Goldsen, Zhang, & Zhao, 2011, p. 262). These symptoms will disappear within 3-4 weeks. New symptoms will emerge after several years when the body’s immune system has weakened. The “common symptoms at this stage include excessive diarrhea, night sweats, fever, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, and coughs” (Rogers et al., 2013, p. 67).
Complications and Treatment
Individuals infected with HIV/Aids will mostly likely get numerous cancers and opportunistic infections. The first complication is tuberculosis. Some other common infections associated with the virus include Salmonellosis, Candidiasis, Toxoplasmosis, and Cryptococcal Meningitis. Individuals “suffering from HIV/Aids are vulnerable to complications such as kidney disease, neurological disorder, and wasting syndrome” (Sharp & Hahn, 2011, p. 13). Kaposi’s sarcoma is a cancer of the blood vessels and digestive tracts. The above opportunistic infections are the leading causes of death in individuals with this infectious disease. Researchers have produced several drugs to manage HIV/Aids (Rogers et al., 2013). Most of these drugs attack the disease at various stages. The commonly used ones include Antiretrovirals (ARVs), Cocktail Drugs, and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (ARTs). Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy is “also known as combination therapy” (Sharp & Hahn, 2011, p. 13). The other method of treatment is prophylaxis. The method ensures every individual gets new drugs to prevent every opportunistic complication. Such “antiretroviral drugs are essential towards controlling the number of viruses and preventing them from attacking new cells” (Sharp & Hahn, 2011, p. 13).
HIV is a common disease in different parts of the world. The prevalence of the disease is 1 percent or more in the world. However, “at-risk populations record the prevalence of over 5 percent” (Sharp & Hahn, 2011, p. 13). Such populations include sex workers and drug users. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this disease affects over 75 million individuals in the world. Over 35 million people have also died because of this disease. Different communities “in sub-Saharan Africa are widely affected with 1 out of every 20 individuals having the virus” (Kendall, 2012, p. 4). According to the WHO, over 2.5 million new cases occur annually.
Determinants of Health: Development of HIV
Human beings cannot control their health outcomes. This fact explains why the WHO has outlined specific determinants of human health. The first one is the socio-economic environment. Many people in low-income societies lack appropriate health conditions. They lack good education and knowledge towards protecting themselves from various diseases. The individuals also engage in risky behaviors such as drinking, prostitution, and drug use. Underprivileged societies lack proper access to various healthcare facilities (Rogers et al., 2013). This situation increases the number of citizens who cannot access different drugs. Such individuals will have limited knowledge of preventing HIV transmission (Sharp & Hahn, 2011).
The physical environment is another health determinant. The surrounding environment “will determine the ideas, cultural practices, and views embraced by different societies” (Kendall, 2012, p. 8). The environment also determines the availability of clean water and air. A proper surrounding environment makes it easier for individuals to support their health conditions. This determinant describes how individuals can deal with HIV/Aids.
The other major determinant of health is a person’s behavior. Many people lack discipline, thus indulging in unacceptable practices. Such individuals will not abstain from sexual intercourse. A person’s behavior will play a significant role in preventing or promoting the spread of HIV/Aids. A promiscuous person will infect more unsuspecting people. A disciplined and morally upright person will not engage in such malpractices. Such practices are critical in determining the development of HIV/Aids (Sharp & Hahn, 2011).
The epidemiologic triangle helps clinicians analyze the transmission of various communicable diseases. The “triangle considers the agent, the host, and the environment in which is disease establishes itself” (Sharp & Hahn, 2011, p. 2). The agent, “causing this disease, is called the HIV” (Sharp & Hahn, 2011, p. 2). According to Sharp and Hahn (2011), several subtypes of this virus exist. Some are aggressive, while others might be less virulent. The virus has the potential to gain access to specific cells in the body. Most of the targeted cells contain CD4 receptors. The virus acts differently in various fluids or body organs. The second element of the epidemiologic triangle is the host factor. Human beings infected with the disease are infectious. The host transmits the virus to another person through blood, semen, or vaginal fluid (The Challenge, 2014). The “viral load in most of these fluids tends to differ, thus determining the infectiousness of the targeted host” (Kendall, 2012, p. 7). The level of secretions will be critical towards the development of this disease.
The third aspect of the above triangle is the environment. Different environmental factors will determine the development and progression of this disease. Social, political, and cultural issues will determine the rate of HIV transmission from one person to another. Sexual behaviors are critical towards promoting this disease. Gender relationships and commercial sex activities are some of the leading methods of infection. Many people might decide to use contraceptives whenever engaging in sex. Substance use and lack of education will also determine the rate of infection (Kendall, 2012). Lack of economic resources results in increased levels of infection. It is appropriate to understand these issues to deal with this pandemic.
The Role of the Community Health Nurse
Community Health Nurses (CHNs) can significantly improve the living conditions of their people. Community Health Nursing is a useful practice because it engages the wider population to deal with the issues affecting the people. CHNs can promote the welfare of communities, societies, and disabled persons. CHNs should also present the best ideas to prevent disabilities, injuries, and diseases (Kendall, 2012). The main obligation of such nurses is to promote health and ensure every person lives in a healthy environment. This fact explains why CHNs can deal with the HIV/Aids pandemic.
These caregivers can gather information and analyze different cases to understand the issues associated with this communicable disease. CHNs “can collect and analyze data from their respective societies” (Chen et al., 2011, p. 264). This approach will avail new ideas and incentives that can reduce HIV infections in the community. These “workers can also promote follow-ups to deal with this disease” (Kendall, 2012, p. 6). These individuals will also offer new skills and promote interdisciplinary programs. They “can also evaluate different health practices and risk factors of specific groups” (Kendall, 2012, p. 8). The approach will ensure the society identifies new disease-prevention practices. They will also provide adequate health education and support to vulnerable citizens.
National Agency: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Several agencies and organizations have been working hard to deal with HIV/Aids. According to the agency, the fight against this disease calls for effective programs and responses. This strategy will reduce infections and produce better drugs that can manage the disease (The Challenge, 2014). This organization is currently identifying new strategies and tools to defeat HIV. The organization is also investing a lot in research and development (R&D). This R&D will produce new products and antiretroviral drugs that can deal with HIV/Aids. By so doing, the organization has been on the forefront towards reducing the impacts of this disease.
Chen, W., Shiu, C., Simoni, J., Fredriksen-Goldsen, K., Zhang, F., & Zhao, H. (2011). Optimizing HIV Care by Expanding the Nursing Role: Patient and Provider Perspectives. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 66(1), 260-268.
Kendall, A. (2012). U.S. Response to the Global Threat of HIV/AIDS: Basic Facts. Congressional Research Service, 1(1), 1-13.
Rogers, G., Mijch, A., & Brotherton, A. (2013). Signs and Symptoms of Chronic HIV Disease. HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STIs, 1(1), 63-70.
Sharp, P., & Hahn, B. (2011). Origins of HIV and the AIDS Pandemic. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, 1(1), 1-19.
The Challenge. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Health/HIV.