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HIV infection from blood test?
Oct 8, 1996

Hi. I recently took a few (non-HIV) blood tests from a reputable medical center. However, I did not notice whether a new needle was used or not. Is there a U.S. law saying that even for regular blood tests, new needles must be used? Has there been any documented cases of a person getting HIV from a blood test in the United States because of re-use of needles?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

In the United States, federal OSHA laws (and various state laws) require that needles not be re-used between patients. Needles in the USA are disposable, and are never re-used. For medical equipment that is re-used (this does NOT include needles), equipment would have to be adequately sterilized between use between patients. These OSHA laws are very strict, and there can be substantial penalties if these regulations are not followed.

I am not personally aware of any cases of a person getting an HIV infection in the USA from getting blood drawn from a re-used needle. If such an incident would occur, it would be extremely rare, and would be due to breakdowns in established infection control guidelines. I am aware of a case of possible transmission in a home setting where needles were shared accidently between two persons in the home. Even in this incident, the infection was 100% avoidable, had infection control guidelines been followed.

So if you are getting blood drawn in the USA (and many other Western countries), the needle that they use would be a single use needle, and is NEVER supposed to be re-used again. In fact, you will often see the needle disposed of in a red container right beside you, immediately after it gets used. This is done to ensure that a needle not be accidently re-used. Most needle exposures (usually to healthcare workers) occured when standardized infection control guidelines were not followed. But federal and state laws do set strict guidelines for healthcare providers in the USA to follow to prevent accidental exposures through needles.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS



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