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Doctor's HIV Status
Jun 15, 2001

If, during surgery, a doctor cuts himself can he require the patient submit to an HIV test and does the patient have a right to know the HIV status of the doctor in California?

Response from Dr. Aberg

If a surgeon cuts himself during a surgery then he/she does have the right to have the patient tested for HIV and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. This same goes for any occupational exposure. The healthcare worker should be tested at time of injury for HIV and Hepatitis B/C to see if that person is already infected. Depending on the risk, the injured person is offered therapy for HIV. Most healthcare workers have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B so this is not usually an issue. Currently, therapy is not offered to prevent Hepatitis C if the injured person is Hepatitis C negative and the source contact is Hepatitis C positive. Details of occupational exposure can be found on a web site http://www.hivatis.org and click on current guidelines.

Now for the reverse. Does a physician have to inform patients of his HIV status? I do not of any law that mandates that a surgeon discolse his HIV status to a patient. The risk of a healthcare professional transmitting HIV to a patient is almost incredibly low. I would have to recommend that you ask an attorney in California about the laws in that state.



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