To mark World AIDS Day I want to spotlight the innovative role that doulas can play in patient care and prevention. Doulas function as community health workers who can join with families, doctors, nurses, advocacy groups, researchers and policymakers to help achieve an AIDS-free generation.

Today, HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence because of improved medical treatments.

Presenting my research at the 2013 Lamaze International Conference in New Orleans
Presenting my research at the 2013 Lamaze International Conference in New Orleans

People living with the virus can have children without transmitting it to their infants. According to the CDC, the number of women with HIV giving birth in the United States has increased by 30%. Women who take antiretroviral medication during pregnancy can reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their babies to less than 1%.

For my public health graduate school culminating experience, I researched evidence-based HIV education methods used by allied health professionals to inform the development of an HIV training curriculum for doulas.

Doulas who receive training in HIV care would be well placed to enhance service delivery to expectant women living with HIV. The continual skilled social, emotional and informational support provided by doulas could greatly optimize the health and well being of expectant women with HIV and their newborns over their life course and help contribute to the elimination of health disparities across generations. Most doula training organizations, however, do not incorporate HIV education into their standard or continuing education curricula.

As professional caregivers, doulas can help increase the mother’s knowledge and understanding of the illness, provide social support, foster trust, and improve retention in care and adherence to treatment.

To learn more, see my project abstract, poster and Power Point presentation.