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Healthcare workers exposed to HIV/AIDS

Related Terms

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Background

  • The human immunodeficiency virus, also known as HIV infection, is a retrovirus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The retrovirus primarily attacks the body's immune system, making the patient extremely vulnerable to opportunistic infections (infections that occur in individuals with weakened immune systems).
  • HIV is transmitted from person to person via bodily fluids including blood, semen, vaginal discharge, and breast milk. It can be spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles/syringes with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and rare in countries, such as the United States, where blood is screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions with infected blood. HIV has also been found in saliva and tears in very low quantities in some AIDS patients. However, contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in HIV transmission.
  • Although healthcare workers are exposed to the virus at work, it is unlikely that they will acquire the virus from a patient, especially if they follow universal precautions, which should be taken with all patients. Healthcare personnel should assume that the blood and body fluids from all patients are potentially infectious.
  • Since December 2001, there have been 57 documented reports of healthcare workers acquiring HIV from a patient. To prevent transmission of HIV to healthcare personnel in the workplace, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers precautionary guidelines.
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Risks of Transmission

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Management Immediately After Exposure

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Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (Pep)

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Non-Occupational Post Exposure Prophylaxis (Npep)

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Diagnosis

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Policies For Healthcare Facilities

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Universal Precautions To Prevent Exposure

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.