Preventing HIV/AIDS.

Always use precautions with all body fluids, especially blood.

        AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a life-threatening condition caused by a virus known as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The virus cripples the immune system, the body’s natural defense against disease. By destroying cells, HIV interferes with the ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The term AIDS refers to the later stages of HIV infection.

        There is no cure and no vaccine at this time for HNIAIDS. The best defense is preventive education. It is important to understand how the disease spreads and how to protect yourself and others.

        You will not get AIDS from casual contact. The disease is transmitted when contaminated (infected) fluid enters the bloodstream. Of these fluids, blood is the most common concern for healthcare workers.

        Following are ways the virus enters the body: intimate sexual contact

  • Transfusions with infected blood.
  • Puncture wounds from infected needles or broken glass.
  • Cuts or open sores.
  • Mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes).
  • Use of infected hypodermic needles.
  • Infected mothers to their unborn babies

        When people are infected with HIV, they are carriers for life. People may not know they are infected. Some carriers never show symptoms, but they can still transmit HIV to others.

        Symptoms vary from person to person. In the early stages, people with HIV usually look and feel healthy. Early symptoms are often similar to common illnesses-coughing, fever, swollen glands, diarrhea. The symptoms go away, but the HIV remains in the body. Advanced symptoms may develop five to fourteen years later.

        AIDS victims are susceptible to diseases the body would normally resist. As the disease progresses, the immune system is unable to fight infection. Treatment can increase the length of survival, but there is no cure.

        Always use precautions to protect yourself and others from infection. Treat all blood and body fluids as contaminated. Wear gloves whenever you have contact with body fluids or soiled articles. Wash your hands with soap and water after any contact with blood, even if gloves are worn. Use the same precautions with vaginal secretions and semen.

        Pour all liquid waste containing blood down the toilet. Avoid splashing on yourself. Put the toilet lid down, and flush. Also flush tissues and other flush­ able items with blood or body fluids on them.  Use a disposal bag for paper towels, wound dressings, sanitary pads, and other solid waste. Close the bag securely. Follow disposal regulations for the facility where you work.


        Protect yourself, clients, co-workers, and visitors from infection by using precautions. The best defense is understanding how infection spreads and using preventive measures. Thorough hand washing is the single most important preventive measure for infection control. Other important measures include clean surroundings, personal protective equipment, and isolation precautions. Always protect clients from infection, provide quality care, and treat all body fluids and needles as potentially infectious.

        All basic supplies and equipment for the care of the isolated client should be stored in the room. Gather any additional equipment before you put on isolation gear to enter the room.

        It is not uncommon for isolated clients to be lonely and depressed. The PCW can help ease depression in a variety of ways. Following are examples.

  • Check on the person often, and answer the call signal promptly.
  • Spend time with the client.
  • Provide access to television, radio, magazines, puzzles and other amusements.
  • Tell the client when you will be back, and be prompt; let the client know if you are delayed.
  • Be cautious of what you say outside the room; the client may hear you.
  • Help the client, family, and visitors be comfortable and confident with the isolation procedures.
Other Precautions

        Use extreme caution with needles and infectious waste. Be aware of how infection is spread, and use personal protective equipment to protect yourself and others from infection.

        Following are additional precautions and safety measures.

  • Handle all needles very carefully, and dispose of them in designated biohazard containers.
  • Be aware that gloves will not protect you from being stuck by a needle. If you stick yourself with a used needle, wash the punctured area immediately with hot, soapy water. Then tell your supervisor.
  • Be very careful whenever you handle infectious waste. Follow the facility’s guidelines for handling waste.
  • Report all broken skin contact, mucous membrane contact, and puncture wounds.
  • Change gloves each time you go from one client to another.
  • Wear a mask, gown, gloves, and protective eyewear for any procedures that could involve blood or body fluid splashing.
  • If you are pregnant and working in a high-risk area, get medical counseling.