'Caring at Its Essence': HIV Nurses Recall Pivotal Moments With Patients

November 8, 2017


Justin Alves, RN, ACRN, CARN

Justin Alves, RN, ACRN, CARN

Alves is a registered nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

There was an inpatient who was an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, who was just diagnosed with AIDS and toxoplasmosis and [had] very low health literacy -- didn't speak English, only spoke Spanish. I walked in the room, and he didn't know what was wrong; he had just come out of the ICU [intensive care unit] and he really had no understanding of what was wrong with him.

The team's original discharge plan was to send him home to Guatemala. I remember being in a team meeting and saying, well, then, you can just sign his death certificate. You don't understand that this will kill him; sending him home is a death sentence.

He now, to this day, is here in the United States. He's on meds, he's immigrated legally, and he's planning a family and getting ready to have his own child.

That's one of those moments where I'm sure, had I not been in the room to say, "This is not allowed to happen," it would have. And I think that's the difference about a nurse being in the room: The nurse sees this whole picture, and says, "He doesn't even know what HIV is. We cannot send him home."

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This article was provided by It is a part of the publication The 30th Association of Nurses in AIDS Care Conference.

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