Occupational exposure and healthcare workers

If a healthcare worker has had a needlestick injury (accidental penetration of the skin by a syringe or medical instrument that has been in contact with a patient’s blood), there may be a risk that the healthcare worker has been exposed to HIV and other blood-borne viruses. An assessment of the potential for HIV transmission and of the patient’s HIV status will allow the healthcare worker to make a decision on taking post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).1

A doctor should seek the patient’s consent for an HIV test before it goes ahead. This request should not be made by the healthcare worker who has been exposed. The patient should also be asked for explicit consent to share the results with the healthcare worker and others involved, such as the worker’s occupational health service.

Hospitals and NHS organisations should make this request a routine procedure for all patients involved in such incidents, regardless of their social background or sexual preferences.

The patient should be informed of the result as soon as possible and offered appropriate support and treatment if necessary.

If a doctor knows about the patient’s HIV status, they should ask the patient’s permission to disclose this. However, if permission is refused, guidance from the General Medical Council says the doctor may have a public interest justification for disclosing the information in such cases.2

References

  1. Department of Health HIV post-exposure prophylaxis: Guidance from the UK Chief Medical Officers' Expert Advisory Group on AIDS. www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_088185 (accessed 25 March 2011), 2008
  2. General Medical Council Confidentiality: disclosing information about serious communicable diseases. Available at: http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/ethical_guidance/confidentiality.asp (date accessed 20 August 2013) , 2009
This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
close

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.