Background Since HIV and AIDS were discovered, studies have demonstrated that negative perceptions and reluctance to provide care to affected people persist among nursing students throughout the world. This leads to poor quality care. Objectives To report on a study that explored socio-cultural influences on the perceptions of international nursing students toward caring for people living with HIV/AIDS. Methods A qualitative descriptive research design, guided by stigma theory, was utilised. Participants were 21 international and Australian undergraduate nursing students enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing program at an Australian university. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews in 2009 and 2011; manual thematic analysis was performed on interview data. Findings Three major themes emerged: blame; othering; values. Perceptions were influenced by complex, interrelated factors and underscored by culturally construed blame and othering. People living with HIV/AIDS were perceived as alien and assumed as homosexuals, drug users, or promiscuous. They were labelled ‘bad people’. Many participants were compassionate but others struggled with differences between their personal values and professional values expected of a Registered Nurse. There was considerable variation in the degree to which participants were willing to embrace different perspectives and values. Conclusion Nursing curricula is vital to patient health and wellbeing and requires increased focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS. It is important for educators to recognise that simply providing information to students does not necessarily change their existing stigmatising perceptions. By addressing the effect of being stigmatised and marginalised by society nursing care to all patients will be enhanced. Students must also reflect on their perceptions and values so as to embrace diversity.
- Nursing education
- Nursing students