First aid and HIV/Aids
In part two of first aid guidelines for cases including infectious disease, we examine exposure to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Aids), as taken from the Safety First Association’s Safety Handbook.
HIV/Aids has become a problem all over the world today and increasingly it is an issue that everyone must confront. There are three ways that HIV is known to be transmitted:
1. Sexual intercourse with an infected person where there is an exchange of body fluids.
2. Blood-to-blood contact, i.e. transfusion, needles or incisions.
3. An infected mother to her unborn child.
Note: HIV is not spread by casual contact and therefore most employees have no risk of becoming infected with HIV at work.
Exposure to HIV can be prevented in the particular occupations where there is a potential risk of exposure. It is important that these workers are provided with education in the appropriate methods of prevention. Even where there is no occupational risk of exposure, workers should still receive education on the facts known about HIV/Aids in order to decrease the potential for fear and prejudice.
Based upon existing research and knowledge, there is very little, if any, risk of employees becoming infected with HIV through normal social contact with an infected person. However, it should be recognised that there is a potential risk from exposure through blood spillage arising from accidents or from exposure to contaminated syringes.
The following will assist in ensuring that potential exposure to HIV is reduced to reasonably practical levels:
1. Immediately remove all employees from the vicinity of any blood spillage arising at the workplace.
2. Quarantine the area until spillages have been cleared away.
3. Ensure that first aid boxes are regularly checked for supplies of equipment, including personal protection equipment for use when dealing with blood spillage.
4. Allow only qualified first aiders and other authorised personnel to clear away spillages of blood.
5. Ensure that all cuts and abrasions are suitably protected by wound dressings.
In the absence of a vaccine or cure, prevention is the only way to effectively combat the spread of HIV/Aids. As certain sexual and drug-related practices greatly increase the risk of contracting the disease, only a move away from high-risk behaviour can protect us and limit the spread of the disease.