How to Become an HIV/AIDS Nurse

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Updated July 1, 2022

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HIV/AIDS nurses dedicate their careers to the care of individuals living with HIV and AIDS. Learn about this fascinating nursing specialty.

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How to Become an HIV/AIDS Nurse
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Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse offers fulfilling work focusing on the care of individuals living with a disease that emerged around the world in the early 1980s. Many have died from this virus, but it has now become a chronic illness that expert healthcare professionals help patients to manage over the long term.

This guide explores how to become an HIV/AIDS nurse, including information on education, certification, salary, work settings, and common responsibilities.

What Is an HIV/AIDS Nurse?

Becoming anHIV/AIDS nurse allows professionals to support patients struggling with a virus that medical science has gained much control over in the last forty years.

HIV/AIDS nurses improve patients' medical care and quality of life. These highly skilled healthcare workers advocate for patients, along with managing complex medication and testing schedules.

Supportive counseling is important to the nurse-patient relationship in HIV nursing, including psychosocial complications and anxiety over the future. HIV/AIDS nurses work in HIV clinics, community health centers, research institutions, and long-term health facilities.

Steps to Becoming an HIV/AIDS Nurse

Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse requires earning a professional nursing degree, gaining licensure, accruing experience in HIV/AIDS care, and possibly pursuing certification. Program and licensure requirements depend on state regulations.

  1. 1

    Earn an ADN or BSN Degree

    There are different types of bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs. A traditional BSN is a four-year college degree that results in the student receiving a strong foundation in nursing care, anatomy and physiology, informatics, and related subjects.

    Nurses with associate degrees in nursing (ADNs) can enroll in RN-to-BSN programs, transfer many of their ADN class credits, and graduate with a BSN in 12-18 months. Individuals with bachelor's degrees in non-nursing fields can complete accelerated BSN programs, adding nursing care, nursing theory, and other subjects to their previous knowledge base.

  2. 2

    Pass the NCLEX Exam to Receive RN Licensure

    Passing the NCLEX is a necessary step toward becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse. Every graduate of a nursing degree program who wishes to earn an RN license must pass the NCLEX exam. State boards of nursing use the exam to determine if candidates qualify for nursing licensure.

  3. 3

    Gain Experience in HIV/AIDS Nursing

    If a new nurse wants to gain experience in HIV/AIDS nursing, they can seek a position in any facility, agency, or institution where patients with HIV/AIDS receive care. Many facilities do not always require HIV/AIDS nursing certification to serve in such a nursing role.

  4. 4

    Consider Becoming a Certified HIV/AIDS Nurse

    Earning a specialty certification allows RNs to validate their knowledge, increase marketability, and demonstrate commitment to that specialty. The HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB) administers certification and recertification exams. Nurses seeking certification must meet specific education and experience requirements to receive the credential.

Featured Online RN-to-BSN in Programs

HIV/AIDS Nurse Education

Earning an ADN and gaining experience in HIV nursing offers the quickest entry into the profession. Nurses can pursue certification after accumulating two years of professional HIV/AIDS nursing experience.

ADN Degree

An ADN is a short, direct pathway to becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse. With just 2-3 years of education at the community college level, you can graduate, pass the NCLEX, receive your nursing license, and pursue a position in HIV/AIDS nursing.

This degree is best suited for those who would like to enter the nursing workforce with a college degree as quickly as possible. An ADN is the minimum degree needed to sit for the NCLEX. Some employers may prefer or require candidates with BSNs, while others hire dedicated nurses who hold ADNs.

  1. 1

    Common Admission Requirements

    GED or high school diploma; GPA of 2.0 or higher; completion of high school math, biology, chemistry, English, world languages, and humanities; ACT scores (18 in English, 19 in math) and SAT scores (450 in English, 460 in math); completed application and transcripts

  2. 2

    Program Curriculum

    Introduction to the nursing profession; professionalism in nursing; health assessment; microbiology and immunology; medical-surgical nursing; pediatric nursing; maternal-newborn nursing

  3. 3

    Time to Complete

    2 years

  4. 4

    Skills Learned

    Physical assessment; therapeutic and professional communication; critical thinking; organization; hands-on nursing skills

BSN Degree

The BSN degree is the most commonly held nursing degree for prospective professionals who aim to work in acute care hospitals.

  1. 1

    Admission Requirements

    High school diploma or GED; high school and/or college transcripts; resume or CV; SAT or ACT scores; some schools may require prior completion of microbiology, anatomy and physiology, statistics, and chemistry

  2. 2

    Program Curriculum

    Anatomy and physiology; community health nursing; Pharmacology; leadership and management; nursing informatics; research and statistics; pathophysiology; psychology; clinical and lab components

  3. 3

    Time to Complete

    4 years on average

  4. 4

    Skills Learned

    Physical assessment; therapeutic and professional communication; critical thinking; organization; practical nursing skills; leadership and management; evaluation of scientific research

HIV/AIDS Nurse Licensure and Certification

The NCLEX is the required licensure exam to be able to practice as a registered nurse. The number of continuing education hours required per year to maintain RN licensure is regulated by the board of nursing in each state or territory. Becoming a certified HIV nurse is not required for this role but may improve job prospects or salary potential.

The HANCB administers exams for both certification and recertification, and also provides helpful resources. Eligibility requirements for RNs include:

  • Current RN license in the United States or an international equivalent
  • Minimum two years of clinical experience, education, management, or research related to HIV/AIDS
  • Completed application with required fee: Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) members pay $250; non-ANAC members pay $350

Working as an HIV/AIDS Nurse

Finding a job and becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse depends on the quality of a nurse's resume and experience, letters of recommendation, the nurse's professional network, and skills in job-hunting and interviewing.

Common workplaces include infectious disease clinics, research institutions, and community health centers. Job responsibilities may be very similar in various clinical settings since most will involve supporting patients with a chronic illness.

Improving patients' quality of life, advocating for patients, and keeping up-to-date with schedules are common responsibilities. Supportive counseling, along with educating patients and their families on the disease process, lifestyle risks, and medication side effects are also key tasks for the HIV/AIDS nurse.

According to ZipRecruiter data from June 2022, the national average salary for an HIV/AIDS nurse is $73,460 per year and $35 per hour.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an HIV/AIDS Nurse


How many years does it take to become an HIV/AIDS nurse?

Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse typically takes 2-3 years, which includes earning an ADN, passing the NCLEX, and finding a position.

What is the quickest way to become an HIV/AIDS nurse?

Earning an ADN and licensure as an RN offers the quickest route to becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse.

How hard is it to become an HIV/AIDS nurse?

Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse may be challenging for those who find nursing school, passing the NCLEX, and finding a satisfying job difficult. The BLS projects a 9% employment growth for all registered nurses from 2020-2030, indicating strong demand for the field.

Do HIV/AIDS nurses get paid well?

As of June 2022, ZipRecruiter data indicates a national average salary for an HIV/AIDS nurse of $73,460 per year, which translates to $35 per hour. This rate is slightly below the median pay for all registered nurses.


Reviewed by:

Portrait of Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

As an assistant professor of nursing and entrepreneur with 20 years of varied nursing experience, Brandy Gleason offers a unique perspective. She currently teaches in a prelicensure nursing program and coaches master's students. Gleason brings additional expertise as a bedside nurse and nurse leader, having held past roles at the supervisory, managerial, and senior leadership levels. Her passion and area of research centers around coaching nurses and nursing students to build resilience and avoid burnout.

Brandy Gleason is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Page last reviewed June 17, 2022

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