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HIV+ Caseworker
Apr 29, 2004

I have been HIV+ for over 17 years. Viral Load is non-detectible and CD4 is around 300. I have an opportunity to become a HIV Caseworker for a large HIV medical facility. I would only interview patients, no contact other than that of regular office worker. Should I be concerned about opportunitistic infections from the clients? I really want the job and think I would be great at it, but I would not want to endanger my own health. How much should I be concerned??

Response from Ms. Breuer

Good question. I'd say go for it!

The "bugs" that cause opportunistic infections are everywhere. You keep yourself safe from them by following normal precautions: handwashing, careful food preparation, taking the preventive medications that your health care provider prescribes for your particular profile. A person who has an opportunistic infection does not pose any greater threat to you than the pigeon on the street who may harbor one of the "bugs."

The one exception to this, of course, is tuberculosis. But as I understand the literature about transmission of TB, transmission requires prolonged contact in a confined, poorly-ventilated space. TB transmissions typically take place in overcrowded environments such as prisons. As long as your TB education is up to date, you do not run any more risk of exposure to an OI doing this job than you would walking down the aisle of a supermarket. And you are unlikely to be interviewing a person who has both HIV and TB. That combination unfortunately makes someone so sick that the person would hardly be sitting through an interview.

Now: have I made you suddenly afraid of pigeons and supermarkets? Not the goal. I hope you acquire this position and enjoy the job!

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