HIV exposure during my Job
Dec 10, 2003
I'm a (male) nurse. Two days ago, I looked after a homless guy who had fought with an other homless before. He had blood on his face and he told me that he was HIV+. Thus I put on gloves to look after him. After, he went back on the street. Some minutes after he left, I saw a dried droplet of blood on the bottom of my arm. I cleaned it and I saw that my skin was intact. Because the skin was intact and because the homless HIV positive guy was my first patient of the day, it is 100 sure that it was HIS blood.
I was afraid and I discussed with a doctor who told me that there was no risk even if the blood droplet had time to dry. For him, even if the homless guy had a high viral load count, the HIV is not able to pass the skin barrier if it is intact. He told me that it was not necessary to report the event or to start a PEP but he is not a specialist and I don't know if I can trust him.
What do you think about it ? Was there a real risk or not ? I'm afraid because the droplet of blood had time to dry !
Please answer asap, I'm very afraid.
Response from Ms. Breuer
Everything we know about HIV tells us that your doc is right. You were not exposed to HIV. You were exposed to fear, which is really hard to manage.
For starters, as a nurse, you probably have had plenty of instruction in infection control. As in gloves. Wear them routinely. You're working as a nurse in 2003. The use of gloves will remind you that you're protecting yourself, and should help you to manage the fear.
If this continues to dog you, please make an appointment with a supervisor to talk about it. A first face-to-face encounter with someone known to have HIV is truly unsettling, and you have every right to a little help processing those feelings, so that you can let go of the fear and get back to work. Where we need you!
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