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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 00:03 GMT
Junior doctors' 'HIV ignorance'
injection
Needlestick injuries are commonplace in hospitals
Two out of three doctors may be at extra risk of catching HIV from patients because they do not know about drugs which could protect them.

HIV scares are far from rare in busy hospitals - often "needlestick" injuries with needles used on HIV-positive patients.

After being exposed to HIV, "post-exposure prophylaxis" (PEP) treatment with a combination of drugs can reduce the risk of infection.


All health care workers should know how to protect themselves against HIV infection

Spokesman, Terrence Higgins Trust
However, a postal survey carried out at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals found that knowledge was patchy among junior doctors.

All but 7% had heard of PEP, but only 8% could actually name all the drugs used in treatments, and only three-quarters of the juniors realised the drugs could reduce the chance of transmission.

Naming even one drug was a problem for 43% of those who returned the survey.

Three-quarters 'exposed'

The level of ignorance was surprising - particularly because three-quarters of the juniors said they had been exposed to "high-risk" potentially infective material at some point.

Significantly, 18% had actually sought out advice about drug protection after being exposed to HIV.

The authors of the study wrote: "We feel that it is of great importance to improve the level of knowledge about occupational exposure to HIV among junior hospital doctors.

"This should include education on how to prevent exposure, as well as information on first aid, who to contact, and the urgency with which advice on PEP needs to be sought."

Up until the end of 1997, there were 95 definite and 191 possible cases of work-acquired HIV infection among healthcare workers worldwide - most in developed countries.

A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV/Aids charity, said: "These findings are very concerning, especially as health care workers are far more at risk from a patient with HIV than vice versa.

"All health care workers should know how to protect themselves against HIV infection in the event of an unavoidable needlestick injury.

"It should be part of basic training for all clinical staff, including nurses."

See also:

10 Sep 01 | Health
HIV drugs misused
08 Oct 00 | Health
Drip device cuts infection risk
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