AIDS / HIV and Bloodborne Pathogens
After you take this class, you will be able to:
INTRODUCTION TO AIDS/HIV
The HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) virus causes AIDS. This virus is in the blood and ALL other body fluids, like urine, feces, tears and wound drainage. There is no cure for AIDS. All people with AIDS are expected to die as the result of its damage unless a cure is found.
The United States is now testing a vaccine to prevent AIDS, but it is NOT yet ready to use. We now have medicines to help people with AIDS/HIV live longer. But there is still no cure. The one thing that we can ALL do now to stop AIDS/HIV is to prevent its spread.
People with HIV, the virus, may seem to be fine for a while. After the virus has been in the body for some time, they usually become sick with an infection or a cancer. These infections and cancers kill people with AIDS/HIV. People with AIDS/HIV do not die from AIDS. They die from these infections or a cancer.
HIV infected people get these infections and cancer because the HIV virus stops the body from protecting itself against them. The body is no longer able to fight off infections and cancers like other people do. These infections and cancers take the opportunity to attack a weak body that is no longer able to fight back. The body has become too weak. These infections are called "opportunistic infections".
Most people with AIDS/HIV die of a pneumonia called PCP. Others die of cancer, digestive problems and infections caused by a bacteria, virus or fungus.
People with HIV, that do not yet have these illnesses, may NOT even know that they have HIV. They may look great and very healthy. They are able to go to work, enjoy life and do other things. However, these people can spread the HIV virus to other people WITHOUT even knowing that they have it.
Anyone at any age can have AIDS/HIV. Babies can be born with it when their mother had it during pregnancy. Young people and children, adults, nurses, nursing assistants, doctors, mothers fathers and even old people can get this disease from others.
WHAT ARE STANDARD PRECAUTIONS?
A blood test is the best way to know if a person has AIDS/HIV. But, because so many people with HIV feel fine, they do not have a blood test done. There are many, many people with HIV that do NOT know they have it.
We must, therefore, care for all people as if they had AIDS/HIV. In health care we use Standard Precautions (formerly called Universal Precautions) to protect against the spread of AIDS/HIV. When we use Standard Precautions, we treat all blood and body fluids "as if" it has the HIV virus. We treat all patient blood and body fluids the same. We treat it ALL the same regardless of the patient’s diagnosis. The blood and body fluids of a known AIDS/HIV patient are treated EXACTLY the same as a person without an AIDS/HIV diagnosis.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AIDS/HIV?
Some of the signs of AIDS/HIV are:
HOW IS AIDS/HIV SPREAD?
AIDS/HIV is spread from one infected person to another by blood and body fluids like:
Most people get AIDS from sex, or sexual contact, and sharing drug needles with others.
As far as we know AIDS/HIV is NOT spread with:
AIDS/HIV IN THE ELDERLY
Most people think that AIDS/HIV is a disease of only young people. This is not true. AIDS/HIV can affect all age groups, including the elderly. In fact, more and more older adults are getting AIDS/HIV now than other age group. Do NOT think that an old person can't have AIDS/HIV. Many do.
AIDS/HIV among old people:
THE PREVENTION OF AIDS/HIV
Stopping the spread of HIV depends on EVERYONE.
You can prevent AIDS/HIV your work life when you do the following:
MORE ABOUT HANDWASHING & GLOVES
Handwashing is the single most important thing that you can do to prevent the spread of infections, including AIDS/HIV. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap, water and a lot of rubbing.
Wash your hands before and after each patient contact. Gloves do NOT take the place of handwashing. Wash your hands before putting gloves on. Wash you hands after you take the gloves off. NEVER wash gloves. Gloves are used for contact with each person. They must be thrown out after each patient.
NEVER walk through the halls or handle another patient without changing gloves. Gloves prevent patient to patient infection. If you touch a door knob in the hall with dirty gloves, ANYONE that touches that door knob will have on their hands what you had on your dirty gloves!
Special gloves must be given to you if you have an allergy to latex gloves. If you have a latex allergy, report it to your nurse.
OTHER DISEASES THAT ARE CARRIED BY BODY FLUIDS
AIDS/HIV is NOT the only disease that is spread with blood and body fluids. There are several other diseases that are spread in blood and bodily fluids. Syphilis, malaria and hepatitis are a few of them. Of these, hepatitis is the most common.
There are several forms of hepatitis:
There is now also a hepatitis D, E, F and G. Hepatitis B and C are the two forms of hepatitis that are of greatest concern to those who work in health care. It is present in blood and body fluids like AIDS/HIV.
Patients with hepatitis B and C can feel and look perfectly well for a long period of time. They may not know they even have it. They too, like AIDS/HIV patients, can spread it to others even when they have NO signs of it. Again, Standard Precautions MUST be used for ALL patients at ALL times.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HEPATITIS?
Hepatitis hurts the liver, the largest organ in the body. The liver performs 100s of functions for the body. Hepatitis destroys the liver and it puts the person in danger of death. There is now a blood test for Hepatitis A, B and C.
The signs of hepatitis B and C are:
THE PREVENTION OF HEPATITIS
Hepatitis B and C, the forms of hepatitis that can be spread like AIDS/HIV in blood and body fluids, are prevented in the same way that AIDS/HIV is prevented. Hepatitis B can also be prevented with a vaccine. All health care workers and children should get this vaccine so that they can never get hepatitis B.
In summary, you can prevent hepatitis and all other diseases carried by the blood and body fluids. You must do all of the things listed below when you work with ALL patients, not just those you know have AIDS/HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). “HIV/AIDS” [online] http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/dhap.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). “Viral Hepatitis” [online] http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/
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Copyright © 2010 Alene Burke
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