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Abstract

With no effective medical treatment or vaccine for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) available now or in the near future, nursing can make the most difference by providing emotional support and physical care for people with AIDS and their families. One of the least understood areas in providing such care is the feelings nurses have toward persons with AIDS, especially in rural areas. This study measured changes in knowledge and attitude toward AIDS and homosexuality before, immediately after, and three months after an all-day AIDS workshop for nurses. The program provided current knowledge about transmission of the human immune virus and risk behaviors, and addressed personal feelings regarding fear of caring for persons with AIDS as well as negative feelings associated with homosexuality. Results revealed significant positive changes in knowledge and attitudes three months later. Participants also became significantly less fearful and more willing to care for persons with AIDS. Feelings of fearfulness and willingness to care for people with AIDS were associated not with knowledge differences but with differences in attitudes toward the disease and homosexuality. Therefore, this program's affective component was more closely associated with precursors to behavior change than was cognitive education. As the education needs of rural and community nurses increase, programs specific to them must continue to be developed and studied. Future research must also explore and evaluate actual nursing care of AIDS patients in relation to education program objectives.