World AIDS Day • Rose Parade Nurses Float • Cell Phones, PDAs and Public Health

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World AIDS Day • Rose Parade Nurses Float • Cell Phones, PDAs and Public Health

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Dec. 1, 2008, marks the twentieth celebration of World AIDS Day, an international event first declared by the World Health Organization and the United Nations’ General Assembly in Resolution 43/15.

The theme this year is a continuation of last year’s: “Leadership — Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” It refers to the disconnect between promises to halt the spread of AIDS and what has in fact been done.

Some statistics to bring it all together:

1. Nearly all countries now acknowledge the threat of AIDS. Most recently, South Africa, a country with the highest number of antiviral medication recipients, installed a health minister who, for the first time, acknowledges the huge impact of AIDS. Denial no longer reigns, but as of the end of 2007 only 28 percent of people needing treatment in fact received it.

2. The total number of AIDS sufferers worldwide is 33.2 million, including 2.5 million children.

3. Infection rates are still rising, 2.7 times faster than people coming in to receive treatment. Worldwide, 6,800 people contract HIV daily; and in 2007, some 5,700 people died every day from AIDS-related illnesses.

4. One-third of countries still lack legal protections for sufferers of AIDS. Stigma and discrimination remain a universal threat, as do legal barriers to HIV services for several groups, including women and adolescents.

World AIDS Day organizers stress that governments, communities and individuals must “lead, empower and deliver” if we are to meet the goal of universal access to comprehensive care by 2010.


It’s not too early to plan. In 2012, the president of the Tournament of Roses will be a registered nurse. Sally Bixby is only the second woman to serve in this position and the first nurse. Her special year will finish with the 2013 Rose Parade, a New Year’s Day event that attracts thousands of participants and millions of viewers worldwide.

As part of the celebration, there will be a Nurses Float honoring the profession — and you can participate even now. Organizers are looking for financial support in the immediate future and help in decorating during the big event. Although professionals assemble most floats, at least partially, the nurse float is counting on the helping hands of nurses from all over. It takes hundreds of work hours to complete the application of all the flowers and other natural materials that the parade rules require.

How else can you help? The website,, lists several donation opportunities. You can ask your professional organization to sponsor the float or serve as a patron. If you can offer hospitality for volunteers, that’s great.

Sally Bixby is involved every step of the way. Professionally, she is director of surgical services at the City of Hope National Medical Center and Beckman Research Institute. She is a graduate of Pasadena City College and Cal State, Los Angeles, as well as the current treasurer of the Los Angeles chapter of the Association of Operating Room Nurses.


The word’s still out.  Do cell phones — or mobiles, if you prefer — cause headaches, insomnia, palpitations and, alas, cancer? It’ll be awhile before we know for sure, but one thing is clear: They’re here and they’re not going away. So why not use cell phones and other integrated wireless devices as adjuncts to commonplace public health initiatives?

Stanford recently sponsored a symposium in which participants heard of a world where notification of emergencies would spread immediately, or where early warning surveillance systems had instantaneous updates. In fact, some suggest that these inventions will revolutionize the nature of public health and affect billions around the world, even in places without basic amenities, like clean water.

Right now, the United States lags behind other countries in health applications. Mobile text messaging (SMS) is already popular all over Europe in chronic illness self-management, medication adherence, diet and activity monitoring. New Zealand boasts STOMP, a successful stop smoking program that uses a mobile phone program. Here in the United States, a randomized, controlled study at the Centers for Disease Control found that individuals receiving text messages keyed to their alcohol consumption reported a lower use of alcohol during the study period.

Learn to set up your own SMS service to remind patients of needed action — like their medical appointments. Even collect data from clients and alert them to urgent health issues. TMOT. Texting is low-cost, simple and within reach of almost everyone.

But you’ll need to master txtspk, that is text-speak, ASAP.  

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