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HIV Positive Health Care Workers
Dec 11, 1998

What is the law/ethical responsibilty of health care workers to reveal their HIV status to patients they are taking care of. I have heard that physicians are required to tell their patients if they are HIV +. Does the same apply to nurses, medical students, radiology techs, etc. Also, are there limitations to the types of procedures a health care worker can perform? Are HIV + nurses still allowed to put in IVs, are physicians still allowed to do even small procedures such as mole removal?

Thanks, Mark

Response from Ms. Breuer

Laws vary from state to state, and generally local hospital boards have jurisdiction over these matters. Please remember that HIV is not easy to transmit. It requires direct contact between one of the four infectious fluids--blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk--and a mucous membrane or a break in the skin of someone else. The procedures you describe should not involve any of the health care provider's blood. To my knowledge, the only health care providers who face restrictions because of being HIV+ are surgeons.

There are no documented cases of HIV transmission from health care provider to patient in this country in the entire history of the epidemic. There are several dozen cases from patient to health care provider. The ethical responsibility, if there is one, lies with an HIV+ patient.

Nancy Breuer

Possible contraction through dish-washing?

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