Are patients in a health care setting at risk of getting HIV?

Although HIV transmission is possible in health care settings, it is extremely rare. Medical experts emphasize that the careful practice of infection control procedures, including universal precautions (i.e., using protective practices and personal protective equipment to prevent HIV and other blood-borne infections), protects patients as well as health care providers from possible HIV transmission in medical and dental offices and hospitals.

In 1990, the CDC reported on an HIV-infected dentist in Florida who apparently infected some of his patients while doing dental work. Studies of viral DNA sequences linked the dentist to six of his patients who were also HIV-infected. The CDC has not yet been able to establish how the transmission took place. No additional studies have found any evidence of transmission from provider to patient in health care settings.

CDC has documented rare cases of patients contracting HIV in health care settings from infected donor tissue. Most of these cases occurred due to failures in following universal precautions and infection control guidelines. Most also occurred early in the HIV epidemic, before established screening procedures were in place.

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