Professional nurses knowledge and understanding of AIDS/HIV infection.
This study examines the Professional nurses' knowledge and understanding of AIDS/HIV infection. The Professional nurses that participated in the study, are those working in a specialised institution which caters for tuberculosis and psychiatric patients, and those suffering from oesophageal and lung cancer; and the patients with orthopaedic problems. Knowledge explored is specifically related to AIDS/HIV infection, which includes the causes, mode of spread of infection, symptoms, diagnostic tests available, prevention, complications and identification of high risk groups. The sample was formed by 53 Professional nurses; 27 being those that have done the AIDS counselling course, and 26 who have not done the course. To collect data, questionnaires were sent to the participants. Apart from the questionnaires, focus group interviews (21 participants) were done to elicit any information that may not be obtained through the use of a questionnaire. The theoritical framework used is a combination of two theories, Cognitive Dissonance Theory and Fear of Contagion Theory. Cognitive Dissonance Theory assumes that people want to maintain consistency with their beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviour. People confronted with examples of their own inconsistency in these areas, will experience psychological discomfort and be motivated to eliminate the inconsistency. Fear of Contagion Theory developed as a response to perceived threat of catching the disease/infection. Three behaviours characterise this fear:- avoidance, taking extreme precautions, and verbal expression of fear regarding the disease. As a result, apart from looking at factual knowledge, one had to identify the behaviors that relate to this theoretical framework. These included fear, avoidance, taking extreme precautions and dissonance/discomfort. These areas are covered in the questionnaire as well as in the interview with the focus group. The results show high knowledge of general information, including the mode of spread. Lack of knowledge in identification of high risk groups, symptoms, diagnostic tests and use of universal precautions in specific areas was identified. Fears and dissonance are found to be caused by lack of knowledge, aggravated by the fact that the disease is incurable, as it was expressed by the focus groups. Uncertanty was marked with regard to the use of protective clothing. Some participants responded in a manner that showed the use of extreme precautions, while others were unsure in such a way that in the end they indentified different protective clothing for the similar situations. In areas where knowledge deficit was identified, it was discovered that the Trained AIDS Counsellors had better knowledge than those that have not done the course except for universal precautions. On looking at the programme it was discovered that the use of universal precautions was not included in the programme and this might be the cause for the uncertainty. The difference between the two groups might have been in the understanding gained from knowledge acquired during the counselling course, since both groups were exposed to the same enviroment, policies and circulars regarding caring for HIV infected patients. Although the results showed the numerical differences, it was surprising that in certain sections when these differences were tested statistically, no statistical difference was shown between the two groups. This might have been due to the small sample used. There are respondents that showed a negative attitude towards caring for AIDS/HIV infected patients; unfortunately no further questions were asked to explore this aspect. This is a shortfall of this study. It is clear that AIDS/HIV infection is a challenge to all professionals, since it has become one of the leading causes of death. It is then believed that nurses should be equipped with adequate knowledge so as to be able to care for those suffering from AIDS/HIV infection. In conclusion it was clear that AIDS/HIV infection is a challenge for all professionals.