Perceptions of Medical Students of the Role of the Speech-language Pathologist in HIV/AIDS Intervention

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Introduction: An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV and an estimated 181,000 individuals are unaware of their infection. Important advances in drug treatment have helped manage the severity of symptoms, including highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). HAART has significantly reduced the death toll of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). However, HIV/AIDS continues to affect the central nervous system (CNS), therefore, negatively impacting the entire body. Consequently, speech, language, hearing, cognition, and swallowing is affected, which can result in a reduced quality of life (QoL). PLWHA experience communication-related disorders secondary to lifethreatening medical complications. As such, primary health care providers may not be aware of the need for assessment of a patient’s communication and language abilities. The team approach model for HIV/AIDS rehabilitation is critical for collaborating assessment and treatment goals for PLWHA. Team members need to work together with a common set of goals for PLWHA and to learn how to integrate one’s expertise into their framework of care. Research recommends following an interprofessional collaborative approach to the healthcare of PLWHA. Medical practitioners play a key role in leading the healthcare team. However, there is a dearth of information and research on collaboration between medical practitioners and the SLP regarding this vulnerable population. This research aims to explore medical students’ perceptions of the roles of both the medical practitioner and the SLP in addressing the healthcare needs of adult PLWHA. This investigation seeks to understand the roles of medical practitioners and SLPs in HIV-rehabilitation. Methods: Survey research was used to conduct the exploratory-descriptive study. The survey was divided into five sections: demographic information, personal experiences, role of SLPs and medical practitioners, communication disorders associated with HIV/AIDS, and interprofessional education. The survey was piloted by requesting a medical practitioner to complete and provide comments regarding whether the questions were appropriate to the aim of the study, the difficulty level of the questions, time it took to complete the survey, how to improve it, and any additional comments or suggestions. The final version was uploaded to an online survey tool and distributed to the students once IRB approval was granted through East Tennessee State University. Results: Results include participants’ demographics, perceptions of the roles of medical practitioners and SLP’s in treatment to PLWHA, communication disorders associated with HIV/AIDS, and interprofessional collaboration between both professions. Findings are compared to a similar study which nurse practitioner student’s perceptions of the role of the SLP and team collaboration in treating PLWHA was explored regarding nurse practitioner student’s perceptions of the role of the SLP and team collaboration. Conclusion: In conclusion, due to the 2016 Appalachian Student Research Forum Page 99 unique framework of healthcare required by PLWHA, interprofessional collaboration is imperative to maximize QoL in PLWHA. Results from the survey suggest a need for interprofessional education to promote the role of the SLP in assessing and treating communication and feeding disorders in PLWHA prior to newly qualified professionals entering the field.


Johnson City, TN

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