UT Physicians HIV medicine expert Robin L. Hardwicke, PhD, FNP-C, was honored by the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) at its national conference on October 26, 2023.
For the second time, Hardwicke received ANAC’s Joanne Ruiz Achievement for Excellence in Clinical Practice in HIV Award, honoring an outstanding nurse clinician who brings knowledge and care to people infected with the disease. In addition, Hardwicke was installed during the conference as ANAC’s national secretary for 2024-2026.
“I am truly humbled to receive this coveted award and honor from ANAC, named for one of the first nurses in the United States to become infected with HIV through occupational exposure,” Hardwicke said, who is a professor of internal medicine with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “Despite contracting the virus, Joanne Ruiz continued as a dedicated nurse and was admired for her compassionate care and nonjudgmental respect for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. It is in this spirit of resilience that I strive to offer my skills and expertise as long as possible to patients and families. There’s nothing to me more sacred and rewarding.”
Hardwicke was nominated for the award by Diane M. Santa Maria, DrPH, RN, FAAN, dean of the Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston, Jane and Robert Cizik Distinguished Chair, and Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair in Nursing Education Leadership at Cizik School of Nursing.
“Nominating Dr. Hardwicke was an easy choice for me. She is the go-to HIV care provider in our community,” Santa Maria said. “Not only does she provide exceptional care to our patients, but she is a resource for providers across Houston and the nation.”
For nearly 25 years, Hardwicke has been a passionate nurse practitioner committed to HIV/AIDS research, advocacy for patients’ rights, the education of the next generation of nurses and physicians, and challenging preconceived notions concerning the disease.
“While science and appropriate treatment options have allowed those with HIV to live longer and vibrant lives, there is still work to do to reduce the discrimination, persecution, and fear associated with the diagnosis. There are few afflictions, if any, which carry the same level of stigma,” she said. “Your neighbor, coworker, or friend may tell you about a diagnosis of cancer or diabetes, but they would unlikely disclose an HIV diagnosis.”
Hardwicke adds that society must acknowledge that HIV can affect anyone and is not exclusive to any particular group of ‘at-risk’ individuals. She sees this as achievable through honest education and the sustained provision of resources to support people in making informed sexual health decisions and preventing new infections.
Hardwicke’s affiliation with ANAC has spanned two decades. On a regional level, she currently serves as the president of ANAC’s Houston Gulf Coast Chapter and was a founding member.
For the 2023 conference, the chapter will receive ANAC’s Chapter Recognition Award.
“I am proud to see the Houston Gulf Coast chapter being recognized as the ANAC’s chapter of the year – now for the second time in our group’s history. With our membership continuing to grow, we are as strong as ever,” Hardwicke said. “Through continuing education, networking, and scholarship, we aim to be inclusive of all health care professionals with interests in HIV/AIDS care. These efforts help ensure our local representation of nurses are the strongest advocates, clinicians, researchers, and educators in the county in the field of HIV.”