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HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis update for TDCJ & UTMB Employees

Prepared by The Department of Education & Professional Development, UTMB –
Correctional Managed Care

closeup photo of gloved hands taking blood from personThe Texas Legislature has passed a law (Chapter 81, Subchapter H or the Health and Safety Code) requiring state agencies, including TDCJ and UTMB, to comply with the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations on bloodborne pathogens. This article is intended to provide assistance in this training required by OSHA.

AIDS – acquired immune deficiency syndrome – is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV destroys the body’s ability to fight infections and certain cancers by killing or damaging cells of the body’s immune system.

HIV is most commonly spread during unprotected sex with an infected partner.

HIV can be spread through contact with infected blood, or sharing items contaminated by infected blood such as razors or toothbrushes, or by needles or syringes used for drug injection. HIV-infected mothers can transmit HIV to their babies during pregnancy, birth, or through the breast milk. You may be more likely to get HIV during sex with an infected partner if you have a sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydia, or gonorrhea.

Researchers have found no evidence that HIV is spread by contact with saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or feces.

Many people have no symptoms when they first become infected with HIV. Some people may experience flu-like symptoms within one or two months after exposure to the virus. Persistent or severe symptoms may not appear for 10 years or more after HIV first enters the body. Early symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, or enlarged lymph nodes (glands which can easily be felt in the neck or groin).

As the virus slowly destroys the immune system, a variety of other complications start to affect the body. Symptoms often experienced months to years before the onset of AIDS include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent fevers or sweats
  • Persistent / frequent yeast infections.
  • Persistent skin rashes or flaky skin
  • Short-term memory loss

AIDS describes the most advanced stages of the HIV infection. Symptoms of some of the life-threatening diseases common to people with AIDS include:

  • Coughing, shortness of breath
  • Seizures, lack of coordination
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Mental symptoms, confusion, forgetfulness
  • Severe, persistent diarrhea
  • Vision loss
  • Nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Severe headaches
  • Coma

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis may result in permanent liver damage, liver failure, or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is one of the most serious types of hepatitis.

Hepatitis can be caused by: infections from parasites, bacteria, or viruses; liver damage from alcohol, drugs, or poisonous mushrooms; an overdose of acetaminophen; immune cells attacking the liver; or certain inherited disorders. Hepatitis B and C can be spread in the same ways as HIV.

The symptoms of acute hepatitis include: dark urine or clay colored stools; loss of appetite; fatigue; abdominal pain or swelling; general itching; yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes; nausea and vomiting; low-grade fever; weight loss; and possibly breast development in males.

Many people with hepatitis B or C do not have symptoms soon after infection, but can still develop liver failure many years later. A person with any risk factors for any type of hepatitis should be tested periodically.

A person who has been exposed to another person’s blood should get baseline HIV and hepatitis tests within 10 days after possible exposure to the virus, and then again in 6 weeks to 12 months.

You may not have any symptoms with early HIV infection. A doctor can usually diagnose it by testing a person’s blood for the presence of antibodies (disease-fighting proteins). HIV anti-bodies do not generally reach detectable levels in the blood for one to three months after you become infected, and it may take up to six months for the antibodies to show up in standard blood tests.

HIV - During the past 10 years, researchers have developed drugs to fight both HIV infection and its associated infections and cancers, in people who are newly infected with HIV as well as people with AIDS.

HEPATITIS - Treatment depends on the type of hepatitis infection. Treatment can range from rest and a high protein diet to medication therapy. A doctor will discuss all of the possible treatments of hepatitis with the infected person.

There is no vaccine for HIV. Hepatitis vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and B, and a shot of immunoglobulin may also prevent infection even after you have been exposed. There is no preventive treatment or vaccine for hepatitis C. In general, to prevent HIV or hepatitis, you should follow good hygiene practices, practice safe sex, and don’t share needles or other items that could be contaminated with blood.

Occupational Exposure is defined as a reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee’s duties.

  • TDCJ-ID and UTMB-CMC personnel may be exposed to blood or infected body fluids by:
  • Needle-sticks/sharps injuries when shaking down a cell.
  • Giving SQ/IM/IV medication or starting an IV.
  • An injury received during a major use of force.
  • Exposure to blood or body fluids when administering first aid.
  • Touching visible blood and then touching a mucous membrane or cut.

TDCJ Health Services Division Policy B-14.5 governs the management of exposures to blood- borne pathogens.

  • After an occupational exposure occurs, the employee should:
  • Wash off body fluid and get first aid ASAP.
  • Report to the medical department for evaluation of the exposure. Treatment to prevent HIV should be started within a few hours after exposure if it is needed.
  • Remove and replace contaminated clothing.
  • Report to the supervisor and CID nurse.
  • Obtain a baseline blood test within 10 days after the exposure (for proof of eligibility for Workers Compensation benefits).
  • Wear body substance isolation gear for the anticipated level of exposure (gloves, splash gown, eye/face protection, etc.).
  • Cover all non-intact skin with a bandage before coming to work.
  • ALWAYS wash hands with soap and water after removing gloves.
  • Additional steps to avoid infection of HIV and/or hepatitis include:
  • Avoid contact with blood or blood products (especially if this is part of your work).
  • Avoid sexual contact with an HIV or hepatitis infected person or someone with an unknown health history.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before handling food.
  • Do not share razors, needles, syringes or toothbrushes.
  • Do not use recreational IV drugs. Never share needles. Do get help from a drug treatment program.
  • Be cautious of non-sterile equipment when getting tattoos or body piercings.
  • DO NOT drink alcohol in excess. If you already have hepatitis avoid further liver damage and do not use any alcohol.
  • GET TESTED for HIV and/or hepatitis even if you have no symptoms.

Contact your physician or the CID nurse on your facility.

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