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AIDS, an incurable disease affecting the immune system resulting from contracting the HIV virus, is not only deadly, but also has a huge social stigma attached to it. One of the roles of the HIV/AIDS nurse is helping patients with HIV/AIDS and their families cope with the disease. They are responsible for educating these patients in how to prevent the disease’s spread, its effect on the body and available treatment options. They may speak with HIV/AIDS patients about antiretroviral drugs, which have greatly increased life expectancy for those living with HIV/AIDS. They may also work in community health, educating those at risk for infection about safe sex and the dangers of sharing needles.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the required degree for the majority of positions in HIV/AIDS nursing, and many positions require a nurse to have at least one year of clinical experience. A minor in counseling/ psychology may also be useful, as a large role in HIV/AIDS nursing is psycho-social care. Besides obtaining an RN license, most HIV/AIDS nurses will need to be certified in CPR and/or Basic Life Support (BLS). Advanced practice nurses, such as as clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners, will need to complete an accredited Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with a concentration in HIV/AIDS nursing. A master’s degree in nursing will also open up doors for careers in AIDS/HIV research.

Very little information is available on average salaries for HIV/AIDS nurses, but the average annual wage for a registered nurse (RN) of any profession or specialization was $62,450 in May of 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This average annual salary factors in the higher-paid nursing professions, such as nurse practitioners. Nursing salaries remain competitive because of a persistent nursing shortage expected to only worsen as the baby boomers age, requiring more medical care, and as an aging nursing workforce retires. HIV/AIDS nurses can improve their marketability by obtaining certification as an AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRA) through the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.