Malawian Nursing Students' Thoughts and Feelings about HIV/AIDS

Monday, July 11, 2011

Betty Beard, RN, PhD
Department of Nursing, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI

Learning Objective 1: Discuss concerns and questions that Malawian nursing students have about caring for persons with HIV/AIDS.

Learning Objective 2: Identify suggested questions for further research on African health care workers and issues related to HIV/AIDS.


Nursing students continue to be the major group of potential health care workers worldwide.  Today's nursing students face exceptional stresses and challenges. One of these challenges involves caring for persons with HIV/AIDS - especially in sub-Saharan African countries, such as Malawi, that have high rates of infection.  Nursing students are the health care workers of the future so it is important to examine their attitudes, questions, and concerns about HIV/AIDS before designing interventions in terms of didactic and clinical experiences.

The purpose of this study was to examine thoughts and feelings of nursing students in one program in Malawi. While located in a rural area, the school is positioned on the M1 road - often called the "AIDS Highway" - and provides care for a large percentage of HIV+/AIDS patients.  Human subjects' permission was received from the sponsoring university and from the school of nursing in Malawi.


Two focus groups were conducted with 9 students in one group and 12 in another group.  This was a convenience sample and all participants were volunteers.  The researcher posed one open-ended question to begin the discussion: "What are your questions or concerns about either HIV/AIDS or caring for persons with HIV/AIDS?"  Students were free to discuss any topics, share their feelings and thoughts, and/or ask questions related to HIV/AIDS.  Each focus group lasted 90 minutes.


Audiotapes were transcribed and imported into a qualitative data analysis program.  Focus group analysis revealed four themes.  These themes included: transmission of the virus, how it was contracted, condoms and transmission; symptoms of AIDS and issues related to tuberculosis; antiretroviral drugs; and, finally, sympathy, death, and the future.


Recommendations for potential research are made including suggesting questions that can be asked in those studies.