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These are but a few of the Expert Panels of the American Academy of Nursing. The issues they follow and the activities they lead are important to the entire nursing community and warrant rapid dialogue among informed readers. Timely dissemination and responses are critical as traditional modes of publishing cannot keep up with the pace of information available. “Agility” is needed to deliver contemporary arguments electronically for persuasive commentary for building consensus that is timely, substantive and prepared for discourse. Blogging and blogs are increasingly providing a paperless platform for professionals to present and debate ideas in the socially connected evolving web. Nursing Outlook is now hosting an online environment for Expert Panel dissemination! Topics should engage nurses in discussions around focused topics that are important for the profession. “Op-Ed” pieces and other reports are posted for readers to learn from the distinguished leaders on the Expert Panels of the American Academy of Nursing who monitor and engage in health policy and practice today.

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Veronica D. Feeg, PhD, RN, FAAN
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In Observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10).

Believe it or not, there is an incontrovertible public health concern that needs addressed: the incidence of HIV/AIDS infections among girls and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 280,000 women are infected with HIV and face treatment hurdles that men do not with disproportionate distribution among African American and Latina women.  In observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, it’s an issue worth finding a constructive solution and silencing futile back-and-forth debate. To decrease the risk of HIV infection, establishing a system of routine testing in health settings is a good place to start. 

While there is an onus on individuals to utilize prevention methods, there’s a responsibility on health providers to make the testing process as seamless as possible. As a nation, we are falling well short of meeting acceptable standards of routine testing because of implementation and knowledge gaps. Without widespread testing, the disease burden at the individual, family, and community level of care will continue to increase. Consequently, rising rates of infection will reduce the known positive effects of prevention efforts. This is not an acceptable trend.

Statistics indicate nearly a quarter of infected individuals do not know their HIV/AIDS status, while more than half of new HIV/AIDS infections are passed on by unwitting individuals. For states and newly elected officials attempting to espouse a commonly held public health solution, implementing five-year old recommendations for routine HIV/AIDS testing can achieve widespread benefits. These recommendations were originated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2006, calling for routine HIV testing among people between ages 13-64 and eliminating unnecessary administrative barriers to receiving testing. Despite their societal promise, the recommendations have not been adopted across health care settings universally.

In December, an Expert Panel on Emerging and Infectious Diseases, endorsed by the American Academy of Nursing, drafted suggestions designed to see the manifestation of routine HIV testing and improve prevention initiatives leading to decreased transmission of HIV.  The expert panel calls for nurses to assume a greater leadership role in implementing the 2006 CDC recommendations.  The recommendations come in the wake of the Institute of Medicine Report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, which identifies nurses as a catalyst for ensuring a high-quality, patient-centered health care system.

Among a host of suggestions delineated by the expert panel, nurses are key clinicians who can identify knowledge deficits among health care providers regarding the CDC recommendations, developing educational programs to address deficits among health care providers, and generating data to assess routine testing programs.

In addition the expert panel calls for the creation of interdisciplinary teams to develop specific implementation and evaluation plans to operationalize the CDC recommendations in hospitals and clinics.

Routine testing will save money and reduce rates of transmission. For clinicians, it’s imperative that they are equipped with the right information and resources. And for the sake of expanding a patient-centered health care arena, it’s a solution deserving of support, not discourse.

Corresponding Authors:

Rosanna F. DeMarco, PhD, PHCNS-BC, ACRN, FAAN
Co-Chair, American Academy of Nursing Expert Panel on Emerging and Infectious Diseases
Associate Professor, Public/Community Health, Connell School of Nursing
Affiliate Faculty of Dept. of African & African Diaspora Studies, College of Arts and Sciences
Boston College

Joe Burrage Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
Associate Professor
Indiana University School of Nursing