Since 1981, more than 700,000 Americans have died from HIV/AIDS. Nearly 32 million people have died worldwide, and experts suggest that almost 38 million are currently infected with the virus. In the decades since the disease was first discovered, HIV/AIDS treatments have advanced, providing patients with a chance to manage a once-deadly diagnosis. With an active and outspoken community of advocates, patients with HIV/AIDS have seen a swell of support.
To leverage the efforts and involvement of key stakeholders, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with ongoing support from the Trump administration, held the Community and NIH: In Partnership to End the HIV Epidemic forum in December 2019.
“Research discoveries set the framework for public health and public policies to end the HIV epidemic,” Office of AIDS Research Director Maureen Goodenow, MD, said at the half-day forum. “Robust community engagement is critical, and since the earliest days of the pandemic, community voices were raised and continue today as significant partners. Although HIV demographics have evolved in complexity and diversity, something in common across the timespans and population is the persistent dedication, creativity, and resiliency of the communities.”
As NIH looks to the community to continue to advance HIV/AIDS treatment and care, this patient population is also at considerable risk for certain cancer types. According to the National Cancer Institute, the most common HIV-associated cancers include Kaposi sarcoma, aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cervical cancer. Patients are also at risk for developing anal, liver, oral, and lung cancers, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma. Estimates suggest that patients with HIV are nearly 500% more likely to be diagnoses with Kaposi sarcoma than noninfected patient counterparts. At the forum, NIH and community speakers emphasized the importance of local, grassroots efforts to driving successful prevention strategies to continue to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
For oncology healthcare professionals, HIV/AIDS prevention is cancer prevention, and one of the main outcomes from the NIH’s forum centered on the necessity to engage the community in awareness and education. As trusted experts in their communities, nurses can be at the forefront of efforts to spread information about HIV/AIDS prevention, how it affects cancer risk, and ways to make a difference for safe and healthy lifestyles.
For 18 years in a row, nurses have been named the most trusted profession in the United States. Their work is key to improving the public health and can further the HIV/AIDS and cancer prevention strategies necessary to the well-being of their communities.