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HIV+ volunteer caregiver--am I at risk?
May 9, 2001

Hi. I am HIV positive and considering volunteering to assist other HIV patients at the advanced stage of the disease. My concern is what is the risk to me of getting infected with HIV/AIDs related infections from the patients especially TB?. What precautions can I take to avoid infection? My T cells are still reasonably high (mid 600) and VL 4900 and I am not on any medication yet.

Response from Dr. Feinberg

I think that is an admirable thing to do. Most HIV-associated problems are not contagious from one HIV+ person to another. The big exception to this is TB, since HIV- people get infected with TB all the time. I think you should not volunteer in a setting where it is possible that someone may have undiagnosed or uncontrolled TB-- you can find out about this by talking to the people in charge of wherever you are thinking of volunteering. You should have a skin test for TB now (it is possible that you have latent TB infection yourself) and at least once a year. You might also ask your doctor about a baseline chest X-ray.

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