Journal article Open Access

Occupationally Acquired Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection: National Case Surveillance Data During 20 Years of the HIV Epidemic in the United States •

Do, Ann N.; Ciesielski, Carol A.; Metler, Russ P.; Hammett, Teresa A.; Li, Jianmin; Fleming, Patricia L.

Objective:To characterize occupationally acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection detected through case surveillance efforts in the United States.Design:National surveillance systems, based on voluntary case reporting.Setting:Healthcare or laboratory (clinical or research) settings.Patients:Healthcare workers, defined as individuals employed in healthcare or laboratory settings (including students and trainees), who are infected with HIV.Methods:Review of data reported through December 2001 in the HIV/AIDS Reporting System and the National Surveillance for Occupationally Acquired HIV Infection.Results:Of 57 healthcare workers with documented occupationally acquired HIV infection, most (86%) were exposed to blood, and most (88%) had percutaneous injuries. The circumstances varied among 51 percutaneous injuries, with the largest proportion (41%) occurring after a procedure, 35% occurring during a procedure, and 20% occurring during disposal of sharp objects. Unexpected circumstances difficult to anticipate during or after procedures accounted for 20% of all injuries. Of 55 known source patients, most (69%) had acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) at the time of occupational exposure, but some (11%) had asymptomatic HIV infection. Eight (14%) of the healthcare workers were infected despite receiving postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).Conclusions:Prevention strategies for occupationally acquired HIV infection should continue to emphasize avoiding blood exposures. Healthcare workers should be educated about both the benefits and the limitations of PEP, which does not always prevent HIV infection following an exposure. Technologic advances (eg, safety-engineered devices) may further enhance safety in the healthcare workplace
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