Over 40 million people in the world are infected with the HIV virus. Therefore it is not uncommon for surgeons to offer surgical treatment to patients infected with the virus. In such circumstances, there is a great risk of transmission from the patient to the surgeon if proper precautions are not taken into consideration. Occasionally, situations may also arise where the patient may be the one at risk of getting the virus from the surgeon. Surgeons are therefore required to be cautious when performing surgical procedure.
Some of the precautionary measures as outlined by the world health organization on prevention of HIV transmission in healthcare setting include;
• Blood safety: Blood collected from donors should be screened before being released for use. Surgeons are also required to avoid unnecessary blood transfusions.
• Safe injection practices: Safe Injection Global Network (SIGN) is an organization that advocates for best practices in injection. According to WHO surgeons should follow the guidelines provided by this organization.
• Standard precautions: These are practices that minimize transmission of the infection by direct contact of body fluids, blood and injured skin. They include use of protective gear such as gloves, safe disposal of needles and other surgical equipment and thorough cleaning and disinfection of room surfaces and equipment.
• Secure waste disposal: Blood or fluid containing wastes should be disposed properly to avoid spread of the pathogen. Needles and syringes are highly infectious and particularly harmful to both staff and the patient if poorly managed. Healthcare wastes should not be disposed in uncontrolled public waste facilities as the risk of unsuspecting public scavenging and reusing them is high.
• Post exposure prophylaxis: This is a secondary prevention strategy when the surgeon or patient has already been exposed to the virus. Specialized care is provided with the exposed individual getting the necessary first aid, counseling and assessment of the risk of getting infected. With consent, at risk individuals are tested for HIV and antiretroviral drugs are provided if un-infected.