|hiv transmission issue at work place
Jun 29, 2013
Yesterday i had a very bad accident at work and cut myself. A lot of blood spilled out on my work place and the floor. i wanted to clean my mess, but work colleague already had done it. It seems that this person did not use gloves while cleaning my blood. How much legal responsibility would i have if this person turned out to get infected?
Response from Ms. Douaihy
Thank you for writing in. What happened to you sounds upsetting not just because you injured yourself but also because you fear that you exposed a co-worker to HIV.
It is important to know that over 30 states and US territories have laws that make exposing someone to HIV a crime. Unfortunately, HIV criminalization laws do not always require even a real risk of transmission. Notwithstanding the above, it sounds unlikely that a criminal prosecution would commence against you from the incident you describe. You did not knowingly expose someone to the HIV virus, rather, you were involved in an accident that happened to result in your blood on the floor, which you had no way of knowing that someone else would clean up. This was not a reckless or knowing exposure of HIV to another individual.
You did not say what your profession is, but most jobs do not come with any duty to disclose your status to your co-workers or employer. Even if you work in the healthcare field, you only have a duty to inform patients or employers that they are HIV positive if they perform invasive or "exposure-prone" procedures on patients. Specific guidelines are set out in the American Medical Association's "Guidance for HIV-Infected Physicians and other Health Care Workers", 2011. You may very well choose to disclose your status to this co-worker who helped clean up after the accident, but you have no duty to.
And for your peace of mind, while I am not a doctor (I am an attorney and my advice is legal in nature only), from your recitation of the incident it sounds like there was little actual risk of transmission of HIV. I suggest that you speak to a physician about what happened and peruse the quality resources available on thebody.com's website regarding transmission. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and now very rarely in countries where blood is screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.
For essential information on the important topic of HIV criminalization laws, check out the The Center for HIV Law and Policy's Positive Justice Project. I specifically direct you to their fact sheet: "Guidance for People Living with HIV Who Are At Risk of, or Are Facing, Criminal Prosecution for HIV Nondisclosure or Exposure, Center for HIV Law and Policy (2011)".
I wish you good luck!
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