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AIDS contamination on jewelry
Sep 12, 2003

I am quite concerned about an issue I am having at work. I work at a jewelry store that recently accepted 4 pairs of returned earrings from a regular customer who has been quite open about having AIDS for several years. The earrings were crusted with blood and puss and management requested that a coworker and I clean them. We both refused. Eventually a supervisor dipped the earrings in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, steamed them quickly and then prepared to return them to the sales floor. The cleaning job he did was quick and there were still visible pieces of puss and scab and the jewelry. I was thinking about contacting a state agency about this issue, but it is quite time sensitive. What should I do or refer to to encourage management to handle this situation better? In addition to AIDS, this customer has recently had pneumonia and many other health issues. Help!

Leah in Florida

Response from Ms. Breuer

That trip into the alcohol bath, plus steaming, was fine to remove any infectious agents in the blood. And pus? How can you detect pus on earrings? Do I detect a note of overreaction here?

Please be clear: your customer with AIDS is suffering with a damaged immune system, and acquires the infections/diseases that he or she has because the immune system fails. The causes of those conditions are everywhere. The cash you handle every day is dirtier than those earrings.

Please educate yourself at this website or another reliable one for HIV basic information. Any blood should be removed carefully from returned jewelry, but that's because of hepatitis B and C. HIV in dried blood--blood exposed to air and no longer moist--is not capable of causing HIV infection. Your manager could afford to be more knowledgeable about hepatitis, and you could afford to be more knowledgeable about HIV. I encourage you both to do some research at reliable sources.

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