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Nurse stuck with Needle from HIV patient
Nov 27, 2009

Dr. Bob,

Tonight during Thanksgiving dinner, my sister-in-law told me about having to go on PEP after a needle stick. She is an ER nurse and the patient is HIV positive with a very high viral load.

She told me she was told the chances of getting HIV from needle stick was less than 1%, but since the patient was HIV poz with very high viral load her chances were 1 in 300. She also said PEP is usually done for 14 days, but because of high risk they did 28. She said the meds wiped her out and she was taking a leave from work.

I'm HIV positive myself; however, I've only told 2 family members and she isn't one. So, I had to pretend I was clueless--which I probably am anyway. I'd always heard PEP was 28 days no matter the viral load or other factors. What about those percentages? I'm really worried for her and would hate for her to end up positive.

Thank you

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

The HIV statistical figures your sister-in-law mentioned are accurate. Her risk for occupationally acquired HIV from a needle stick from a source patient confirmed to be HIV infected is 1 in 300.

Regarding PEP, you are correct: A course of PEP is 28 days, not 14. PEP medications can cause side effects, such as fatigue; however, most folks are able to continue working while on treatment. Hopefully your sister-in-law is being followed by an HIV specialist during her course of PEP. HIV specialists are best equipped to evaluate and manage all the aspects of PEP, including side effects.

One last comment; perhaps this would be a good time for you to disclose your HIV status to your sister-in-law. You could help support her through her course of PEP and she could become part of your support networks as well. You (and your sister-in-law) can learn much more about PEP in the archives of this forum. Have a look.

Good luck to you both.

Dr. Bob



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