On the frontlines: Celebrating nurses and midwives
Allan Rivera, 36, from Costa Rica, was 14 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and 20 when he was diagnosed with HIV and decided to become a nurse. He has been working as a nurse for 18 years, in the same hospital in which he studied. This is his story...
“My motivation to study nursing came when I was diagnosed with HIV in 2004: I knew the needs of people living with HIV and the support we needed in psychological and comprehensive care. ”
My motivation to study nursing came when I was diagnosed with HIV in 2004: I knew the needs of people living with HIV and the support we needed in psychological and comprehensive care. I joined an NGO of people living with HIV as a volunteer in 2007. I founded the Network of Positive Young People of Costa Rica and am President of an NGO of HIV called MANU (Asociación MANU). I have also been a member of other networks, NGOs and state agencies working on HIV.
Sixteen years ago, the HIV situation was not well known. Therefore, there was a lot of stigma and discrimination in hospitals. Patients living with HIV were isolated and, when they died, they were wrapped in black bags marked as infectious. Their clinical records were marked as high risk. There was not much scientific, medical and knowledge advancement for people.
There has been a lot of change. As nursing professionals, we have more tools to support people living with HIV and great knowledge on the subject. This has greatly reduced the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV in healthcare settings.
I feel proud every time I can help, explain or offer my support, knowledge or guidance to people who have just found out they have HIV. This is as a nurse and also as a peer who has been in that situation.
“I feel proud every time I can help, explain or offer my support, knowledge or guidance to people who have just found out they have HIV. This is as a nurse and also as a peer who has been in that situation.”
The most challenging thing in my career is being accepted by my colleagues – to educate them with the HIV knowledge that I have acquired and thus not feel discriminated against or stigmatized by older colleagues who do not have the same knowledge and experience.
The only similarity I see between COVID-19 and HIV is that they are both widespread pandemics. The national response to HIV has taken place over a long time and depends on the few people who are involved and their political or economic interests. For COVID-19, it is an immediate political, social, economic response that involves all people.
“On a professional level, COVID-19 has created a health crisis that demands more work to help people living with HIV.”
On a professional level, COVID-19 has created a health crisis that demands more work to help people living with HIV. This is so that they receive their medication at the right time and maintain their adherence to treatment. Many people, such as those who do not have jobs or have lost their jobs during lockdowns, need help in finding basics like food and they need psychosocial support.
On a personal level, it has been difficult. I have worked with fear of contracting COVID-19, not had restful moments, not stopped to see friends and been more distant from my boyfriend and family. However, I consider myself a very resilient person.
The best contribution that nurses can offer in the HIV response is to raise awareness about early and timely control and adherence to treatment. We can carry out conscientious work, stand up for the right things, not discriminate or stigmatize any person and defend human rights. And we can act with the commitment to help all people who need us.