Healthy Living

Protect Yourself as an AIDS Caregiver

Key Takeaways

  • It is best to get routine check ups when working with someone who has AIDS. 
  • It is important that you treat AIDS like any other disease.  
  • If you start to feel that something is wrong then you should check with your doctor of course.

Overview

An AIDS caregiver is a person who takes care of a patient affected by HIV, and many AIDS caregivers are related to their patients. Caring for an AIDS patient can be difficult but it also gives the caregiver a meaningful experience and precious time with them. Caring for a loved one with AIDS is no easy task.

It not only involves physical care of the person, but it also involves the caregiver's worry and fear about the diagnosis and eventual outcome of the disease. Most of the time it is the partner of the patient who is the caregiver. As a caregiver you need to know how to prevent yourself from getting infected with the virus.

It does not mean that you can’t take care of your loved ones but you need to take steps in order to prevent its exposure an transmission. Due to the umpteen number of myths surrounding AIDS, it can often make others uncomfortable. This makes many friends and family to distance themselves from the patient. The role of the caregiver is therefore very important, both emotionally and physically.

To protect yourself from the HIV virus you need to be careful when you are an AIDS caregiver. There are multiple ways that you can contract the virus from a person with AIDS or HIV. The thing to keep in mind that it is very important to use common sense. If you see someone who looks sick, it is best to try to avoid things that they have touched.

The experts recommend that you wear gloves before you touch things that the person with AIDS has touched. You can also contract other viruses from people with AIDS. For example, an AIDS patient can often times also have tuberculosis, which can be spread to the caregiver more easily than AIDS. Someone who has a cough that lasts longer than a week might have TB.

Check with your doctor

It is best to get routine check ups when working with someone who has AIDS. That way you can get yourself checked, and make sure that you're not putting yourself at a higher risk of becoming sick. This way you can make sure that there is nothing wrong with yourself. Also it is important to get routine check ups in general.

Get educated

This is the first big and important step which helps the caregiver to prepare for what to expect and how much to care for the person with AIDS. Both the caregiver and the person with AIDS should receive this education and research together. It can also help to ease fears and debunk myths. It also equips you to make the right decisions. There are various courses offered by various organizations which can be taken by the caregiver. Organizations like: The American Red Cross, Visiting Nurse Associations of America and your Health State Department can provide you help.

Both need to know:

  • New research ways to protect yourself
  • Latest developments in treatment and medications
  • How the disease progresses
  • Precautions to be taken as a caregiver
  • Medical and financial preparations needed to make
  • How to stay healthier with HIV

Treat AIDS like you would any other disease

It is important that you treat AIDS like any other disease. An example would be that if someone you know has the flu, you should want to avoid coming in close contact with them. Another thing is that you should try to make yourself feel protected. So use common sense when interacting with someone who has AIDS. It is important to know that people with AIDS are people like anyone else. It is really important to use common sense. Try to avoid touching things and if you notice any symptoms, and check with your doctor immediately if you notice any symptoms.

Know the warning signs

If you start to feel that something is wrong, you should check with your doctor. You can usually tell if you feel that something is wrong, but if not, look for specific symptoms. Some specific symptoms include:

These are all the warning signs and could mean you have AIDS or HIV.

Keep good health

It is important to know that keeping good general health is important. Always have good nutrition and keep good health. Not only is it good in general, but it's always beneficial to keep in mind that not smoking has a lot of health benefits as well. If you keep yourself in good physical and mental health you should be fine when caring for someone who has AIDS.

The spread of HIV :

There are a lot of myths when it comes to how HIV is spread. There is no doubt that AIDS is a contagious disease. But, unlike some other contagious diseases, it is not spread by air. AIDS is a sexually transmitted virus. It can spread sexually through an infected person, by sharing needles or coming in contact with infected blood.

Using needles or syringes that has already been used by an infected person can transmit the virus. These needles include those used for injecting drugs, steroids or used for tattoos. It can also spread from a mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. It can also happen with infected blood donations and organ transplants.

Myths

Casual contact or kissing an infected person: This is the most common myth surrounding HIV. HIV virus cannot live on the outer part of the body. So, hugging, touching, or sitting close to an infected person will not transfer HIV. As for kissing, if it is a closed-mouth kiss, it is safe. If it is an open-mouth kiss, which involves saliva or bleeding gums, then there is a slight possibility of virus being present, but not enough for transmission.

  • Air: HIV cannot survive in the air so coughing, sneezing, or spitting cannot transmit HIV.
  • Water: HIV can’t survive in water, so it cannot be transmitted through swimming pool, bath or from drinking water.
  • Tattoos and piercing: There is a risk only if the needle used by the professional has been used by an HIV infected person. In this case, you need to be extra careful.
  • Food utensils : Again, HIV cannot live outside the human body. Sharing the utensils used by an infected person does not cause HIV.

Protect Yourself

You need to keep yourself healthy so that you are available for them. Their abilities and role will change with the change in their health. You can protect yourself from HIV by practicing safe sex. This involves using a new condom every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

Germs that could make you mildly ill can be serious or even fatal for one who has AIDS. Keep your immunizations up to date. Family or friends who are sick should not visit the patient. Don’t share personal items like toothbrush or razors. Wash your hands and use gloves.

Caregivers should have good food, exercise and rest. Do things that you enjoy in order to recharge your emotional batteries. If you need a break contact an organization who can provide you substitute caregiver who can take your place. Join a support group or see a counselor. Talking to people who are going through same experiences can help calm you and you can air your frustrations in a nonjudgmental place.

Biting : A bite that doesn’t break the skin can’t transmit the infection either. However, a bite that tears the skin and exposes the blood can cause infection.

Duties and risks

Many tasks caregivers take up for the one with AIDS. Some tasks may pose risk of infection while some may not. Following are some responsibilities and the possible risks and precautions that need to be taken.

  • Bathing and hygiene: when cleaning up or treating any wound wear gloves since blood transmits HIV. Incase if the person gets a cut or injured while shaving or in the shower take precautions when dressing the wound. After any contact with blood, wash hands with soap and water even if u wear gloves.
  • Cleaning up vomit: unless the vomit does not have blood there is no risk cleaning up. If there is blood, then wear gloves and other skin protection before cleaning up vomit.
  • Toileting: virus is not transmitted through urine or feces. Hence there is little risk involved while helping the patient go to the bathroom. After the person has used the toilet if you have to clean up be sure to wear gloves or other skin protection. There may be blood in the urine or feces hence take these precautionary measures.
  • Feeding: virus does not get transmitted through saliva hence generally no precaution is required.
  • Cleaning up body fluids: if any infectious body fluids like blood, semen or any other have come into surface contact then clean it up properly in order to kill the virus and also to reduce your risk of getting infection. Shuford has suggested that the body fluids should be cleaned with 10 percent bleach solution.
  • Handling needles and syringes: handle them carefully in order to avoid sticking yourself. Do not put caps back on needles by hand. Pick up the used syringes by the barrel and drop them carefully into a puncture-proof container. If you happen to stick yourself with a used needle, then wash the wound with soap and water and contact the doctor for further evaluation. If you get immediate treatment, then the risk of getting HIV is greatly reduced.
  • Ask for help: if you are not sure what to do in a particular situation call the doctor and ask how to protect yourself. If you are uncomfortable administering any medications in the form of injection, then ask the doctor for help. If there is an open wound or sore that bleeds or oozes and you are not sure how to take care of it or how to protect yourself then ask the doctor or request the in-home assistance for help and to show how you can protect yourself too. 

General wellness

  • Special methods of cleaning the dishes used by person infected with HIV is not needed.
  • If the person infected with HIV wants to prepare food let them do it. The virus does not spread through handling of food.
  • Any liquid waste that contains blood should be flushed down the toilet. If there is any item that contains blood, semen or vaginal fluid and is not flushable such as paper, wound dressings, towels then place them in a plastic bag and close the bag securely and then put it in a trash container. Also check with the local health department whether proper disposal regulations are being used for your area.
  • Give them a well balanced diet. Diet should contain plenty of nutrients, fluids and fiber. Fatty, fried or spicy foods should be avoided. Avoid food borne illnesses while preparing meals. Wash vegetables and fruits well. Meat and poultry should be cooked well. Raw eggs and uncooked seafood should be avoided.

The bottom line

Always try to socialize with other people who are also caregivers to try to make connections and get advice about what to do to help the person your caring for. Also try to use common sense when interacting with people who have AIDS. If you keep yourself in good health and use common use you should be fine when it comes to working with people who AIDS.

Things a caregiver needs to keep in mind :

HIV can only be transmitted through bodily fluids. These bodily fluids include :

  • Saliva
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Blood

So, avoid getting in contact with these fluids of the patient. As long as you are careful about this, you have nothing to worry about. In case there arises a situation, where you have to get in contact of these fluids, make sure you take the necessary precautions, such as using gloves.

Bodily fluids that cannot transmit HIV include :

  • Urine
  • Sweat
  • Tears
  • Vomit

Either the virus is not present or there is not enough virus present in these fluids to infect the other person. However, if body fluids like urine, feces, saliva or vomit contain blood then there is a possibility of transmitting the virus.

Caring for someone with advanced AIDS can help you find new strengths within yourself. You don’t have to do everything. Let them make decisions and whenever possible let them take the lead. When they are able to, let them help around the house and let them be a part of family discussions.