Are Health Care Workers at Risk of Getting HIV on The Job?

Armen Hareyan's picture
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HIV

The risk of health care workers being exposed to HIV on the job is very low, especially if they carefully follow universal precautions (i.e., using protective practices and personal protective equipment to prevent HIV and other blood-borne infections). It is important to remember that casual, everyday contact with an HIV-infected person does not expose health care workers or anyone else to HIV.

For health care workers on the job, the main risk of HIV transmission is through accidental injuries from needles and other sharp instruments that may be contaminated with the virus; however even this risk is small. Scientists estimate that the risk of infection from a needle-stick is less than 1 percent, a figure based on the findings of several studies of health care workers who received punctures from HIV-contaminated needles or were otherwise exposed to HIV-contaminated blood.

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For more information on preventing occupational exposure to HIV, refer to the CDC fact sheet, "Preventing Occupational HIV Transmission to Healthcare Personnel."

Although the most important strategy for reducing the risk of occupational HIV transmission is to prevent occupational exposures, plans for postexposure management of health care personnel should be in place. For guidelines on management of occupational exposure, refer to the June 29, 2001 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, "Updated U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Occupational Exposures to HBV, HCV, and HIV and Recommendations for Postexposure Prophylaxis."

For more information on HIV and health care workers, visit the health care worker section of the CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN) Web site at or call NPIN at 1-800-458-5231.

To find a testing site near you, visit the National HIV Testing Resources web site at http://www.hivtest.org

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