How Health Psychology Can Aid Nurses in Caring for Patients with HIV

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This essay will demonstrate how health psychology can aid nurses in caring for patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It will look at how stigma can impact on the behaviour of patients with HIV as well as explain causes for non adherence. Health psychology studies thoughts, emotions and behaviours related to health and illness. It uses a biopsychosocial approach which considers all aspects of a person's life. Health psychology allows nurses to have a better understanding of how patients perceive health, what influences health risk behaviours and what prompts people to adopt healthy behaviours (Ogden, 2012a). The health belief model (HBM), which was developed in 1966 by Rosenstock, is used as a way of explaining why people choose to use health protection behaviours (Pitts and Phillips, 1998). For the purpose of this essay the HBM will be applied to HIV to demonstrate how it can explain why some people choose not to use condoms.
HIV has many psychological aspects which can impact on the way a patient behaves. Stigma and non-adherence are just two aspects associated with the disease. Many individuals have negative attitudes towards people with HIV and this can result in HIV patients suffering from discrimination. Bad quality healthcare and patients being fearful of seeking treatment are just two of the outcomes of stigma (Mandal, 2013). It has been known for healthcare professionals to withhold treatment, breach confidentiality and isolate HIV patients when not necessary (Engenderhealth, 2004a). Homosexual men have always been at the forefront of HIV stigma and in 1985 Dougal et al conducted a study about homophobia on 128 nurses and physicians. The results showed that ten per cent felt that homosexual men were responsibl...

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...to note that the HBM does not guarantee that an individual will adopt health protection behaviours. It only predicts the likelihood of behaviour change based on beliefs and it has been criticised for not considering social, economic or environmental factors (Morrison and Bennett, 2006).
In conclusion, nurses play a big role in influencing healthy behaviour. Health psychology and the use of the HBM can aid nurses in understanding what prompts patients to consider using health protection behaviours and assess health risk behaviours in order to change them. It also allows nurses to understand and address their own thoughts and attitudes towards patients beliefs and conditions to ensure that healthcare is equal and non judgemental. Health psychology plays an important role in nursing as it identifies that patient's thoughts, emotions and behaviours are all different.

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