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HIV+ Precautions in the Workplace
Feb 23, 2005

I am a veterinarian with a HIV+ technician and wondering what my obligations are for keeping the workplace safe for him. He is a very good tech and a healthy HIV+ individual. Are there any workplace standards that I should be aware of for this type of work environment? I want to make sure he is safe, we are safe and that we are abiding by workplace regulations. Thank you.

Response from Ms. Breuer

What a great question! You really know how to make a volunteer "expert's" day.

Your only concern, since you are the employer and not the person's medical provider, is making sure that everyone in the office knows how to respond to human blood safely, using universal precautions. If your employee with HIV were to bleed and that blood somehow infected another employee, that transmission would make medical history. But your employee's health could be impaired considerably by co-infection with someone else's hepatitis B or C if a hepatitis-infected worker's blood were mishandled by the HIV positive employee.

There are health concerns for HIV-positive people who work with animals when the employee's CD4 count is low enough to risk opportunistic infections. Most of those infections can be prevented with prophylaxis. Your employee's responsibility is to make sure that his primary care provider knows about his job and to discuss if/when such prophylaxis is appropriate.

Good, current training in universal precautions--training that addresses hepatitis B and C and its alphabetical cousins, as well as HIV--is your first obligation as an employer. I'll bet you know your second: to maintain the absolute confidentiality of every employee's medical information. With those two in place, you are in compliance with workplace regulations and anti-discrimination law.

Your office must be a great place to work. Lucky employee!

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