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Celebrating Nurses Day: Christina’s story as a HIV Research Nurse


On 12 May, we mark Nurses Day across the UK – an opportunity to recognise the dedication, commitment and hard work of nurses across the NHS that makes such a significant difference to the lives of so many people every day.

Christina Antoniadi is a London-based HIV Research Nurse. Originally from Greece, Christina has been with the NHS for 8 years and has seen big changes during this time – particularly in terms of the care and support available to people living with HIV across London.

Christina explains what being a nurse in the NHS means to her and her journey so far.

Can you talk us though your journey to becoming a HIV nurse specialist?

Working in HIV care is something that happened almost by chance, as my job was in a Drug Consumption Room (DCR) during an HIV outbreak amongst people who use drugs in Greece. Since then, I’ve worked in almost all settings (inpatient, outpatient, research, etc) and I’ve loved every minute of it!

HIV nursing has enabled me to deliver very high standards of care through a person-centred approach. It has been more than fulfilling and has allowed me to build a career, friendships, and learn from the people I have cared for. It has taught me how to work with evidence and guidelines on the one hand and compassion on the other. It’s been fascinating so far and I’m sure it will continue to be for the years to come.

How have you seen views and opinions on HIV change over the years?

For me it’s not about opinions or views. Everything we stand for is based on evidence and clinical research. So, knowing that HIV is a very different epidemic today is based on evidence. Evidence that informs us that people living with HIV and who are on effective treatment: have a similar life expectancy to the general population; cannot pass on HIV to their sexual partners; can have children who are born free of HIV; and can have fulfilling and meaningful lives.

The biggest breakthrough, however, has been the campaign U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) which provided us with a message that was easy to understand and share and is addressing one of the main barriers to getting to zero new HIV transmissions: stigma.

If you were to choose a defining moment in your career so far, what would it be?

The death of a patient I was looking after in the inpatient department of a central London hospital. It was back in 2019 (not so far back), and he was only 19 years old. It’s an experience that has left a mark on me and which made me question staying in the field. It made me realise that without appropriate access, treatment and support, people can still die of HIV-related complications. This is something we’re working hard to address.

What do you think is the biggest challenge today facing people living with HIV in London?

Stigma. The only reason we’ve not already achieved zero new HIV infections is largely down to stigma and the fear of a diagnosis. I think it’s crucial for people to understand that the sooner they know their HIV status and start treatment, the better their lives will be. And focus on that. The normalisation of HIV testing and the introduction of ‘opt out’ testing in Emergency Departments across London has helped a lot in dealing with late diagnosis and uncontrolled HIV complications. The Fast Track Cities programme has significantly contributed to this, and not just through funding – through their work on addressing stigma, building a HIV GP champions community, and the development of the ‘getting to zero’ collaborative. In my opinion, the next step is the normalisation of HIV testing in GP practices.

What are your hopes for NHS HIV care in the future?

I hope we can maintain the highest possible standards across all HIV and Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) services, making them accessible to everyone whenever they need them. I hope that HIV care will continue to be an innovative and resourceful care model and that HIV research will pick up pace and provide us with new interventions and possibly even a cure one day. I also hope that people living with HIV will continue to be vocal and knowledgeable and hold the healthcare system and healthcare professionals accountable for improving care and ensuring positive health outcomes.

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