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  • Department: HEALTH EDUCATION
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Background of the Study

          Since the discovery of Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the early 1980s, it has become a pandemic on a global scale (Maijama and Mohamed, 2010).  HIV is a virus that attacks the human white blood cells called T-Helper cells (the very cells that would normally get rid of a virus) and replicate within those cells. HIV causes AIDS while AIDS is a disease caused by a deficiency in the body’s immune system. It is caused by HIV (Hubley, 1995).

          The origin of the HIV/AIDS has puzzled scientists ever since the illness came to lime light in the early1980s; the first reported case being in California in 1981.  The key facts surrounding the origin of AIDS are currently unknown, particularly where and when the endemic began, though it is said that it originated from the apes in Africa (UNAIDS, 2006). For instance, the researchers (led by Paul sharp of Nothingham University and Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama) made the discovery during the course of a 10 year long study into the origins of the virus.  They claimed that the sample proved that chimpanzees were the source of HIV-1 and that the virus had at some point crossed species from chimps to human.  This claim supports one of the theoretical views on the origin of HIV – ‘The Hunter Theory’ – which is the most commonly accepted theory.  This theory states that the SIVCPZ virus was transferred to human as a result of chimps being killed and eaten or their blood getting into cuts or wounds of hunters.  The incidence of HIV/AIDS among infants, children, adolescents, and people of reproductive age has risen rapidly due to sexual abuse and indiscriminate use of contaminated blood and instruments, and Nurses cannot avoid HIV/AIDS patients (Davids and Houghton, 1995).

The impact of the pandemic is already being felt in most countries of the world.  According to UNAIDS and WHO (2006), an estimate of 11 persons become infected every minute representing about 15,000 new infections every day or more than 5.4 million for the entire year. Similarly, Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (2004), estimated that as at 2003, about 38 million persons were HIV positive worldwide and almost 26 million were workers between 15 and 49 years of age, and of the 2.9 million HIV/AIDS related deaths in 2003, 2.2 million were from sub-saharan Africa (UNAIDS, 2006). Sub-Saharan Africa remains by far the worst affected region, with 23.8 million to 28.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS as at the end of 2005, 1 million more than in 2003, and globally 64% of all people living with HIV/AIDS are in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS/WHO, 2006).

In South Africa, there is an estimated 5.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 2006). In short, in the South African hospitals, almost half of admitted patients (46.2%) were found to be HIV infected (Shissana et al., 2002). Nigeria being the most populous country in Africa is fast gaining its share of the HIV/AIDS scourge.  UNIADS (2006) reveals that Nigeria has the highest prevalence rate in West Africa sub-region and the third highest prevalence of any country in the world with a 5% population prevalence rate, that is over 3.6 million people are already infected with HIV.  The rapid rise in the incidence of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) has caused much tension, anxieties and negative attitude among members of the public and health care providers especially the nurses. In reality, the fear of being infected at work places had led to irrational discriminatory treatment of PLWHA (Agamolaeret al., 2009).

Statement of the Problem

          Several people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS. Due to this development, many countries of the world such as United States of America, United Kingdom, France, Canada and Germany, have taken bold steps and measures toward the prevention, control and management of HIV/AIDS as well as supporting other countries especially on issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention and control.

Despite the havoc caused by HIV/AIDS throughout the world, Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, most Nigerians have regrettably continued to ignore the existence of HIV/AIDS as if nothing is happening. There has been in ordinate approach to the reality of HIV/AIDS. This is evident in the fact that many people still maintain multiple sex partners, engage in casual and unprotected sex and share unsterilized sharp objects.

In AkwaIbom State, despite the effort of the state government and NGOs through outreaches sensitization programmes, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) still remain in hiding and denial even when they are tested positive. They only present themselves at the health facilities when opportunistic infections have set in, while some visit hospitals at the terminal stages of their illness. On attempts to find out the cause of their actions, they attributed it to the attitude of the health workers e.g nurses, whose unique function is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities which contribute to health recovery or to peaceful death, that would be performed by the patient if the patient had the necessary strength, will or knowledge, and to do this in such a way as to enhance his independence as rapid as possible in General Hospital IkotEkpene. 

In General Hospital IkotEkpene, the researcher observed that people living the HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) who are admitted to the hospital at a terminal stage of the illness with characteristic odour and unkempt appearance were not well attended to and on investigation, the reason was that the patients came to hospital when hope was lost, hence, it was better for them to die as chances for their recovery were slim. Healthcare provider’s attitudes have important role to play in HIV/AIDS care and treatment. What is the attitude of nurses towards PLWHA? This paper addresses the attitude of nurses towards PLWHA.

Objective of the Study

          The general objective of this study is to assess the attitude of nurses towards the care of HIV/AIDS patients (PLWHA) in General Hospital, IkotEkpene.

The specific objectives are:

(1)     To examine the attitudes exhibited by nurses towards the care of HIV/AIDS patients in General Hospital, IkotEkpene, AkwaIbom State.

(2)     To identify the reasons responsible for the observed attitudes of nurses towards the care of HIV/AIDS patients.

(3)     To identify some of the challenges facing nurses in the hospital when dealing with the HIV/AIDS patients.

Research Questions

(1)     What are the various attitudes exhibited by nurses towards the care of HIV/AIDS patients?

(2)     What are the reasons for various attitudes of nurses towards HIV/AIDS patients in General Hospital, IkotEkpene?

(3)     What are the challenges experienced by nurses caring for HIV/AIDS patients?

Significance of the Study      

          This study will be significant to nurses in particular, and by extension the entire health workers in akwaIbom State in the following ways:         

(1)     It will help to evaluate the general attitude of nurses and other health workers towards the care of HIV/AIDS patients.

(2)     It will help to promote the need of implementing HIV/AIDS prevention and control strategies e.g testing and counseling, mass media campaigns etc.

(3)     It will also help to check discrimination and stigmatization of PLWHA.

(4)     It will serve as reference material to researchers for further studies.

(50    It will help to change the negative attitude of health workers (if any) towards the care of HIV/AIDS patients.

Operational Definition of Terms

HIV: Human immune deficiency virus (retro virus)

AIDS:Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a disease caused by a deficiency in the body’s immune system as a result of infection with HIV.

ATTITUDE:   A manner of feeling or behaviour that reflects a state of mind or disposition. It is also an expression of favour or disfavor towards a person, place, thing or event.

Scope of the Study

          The study is limited to attitude of nurses, reasons for the observed attitudes and challenges of nurses towards the care of HIV/AIDS patients in IkotEkpene General Hospital.