Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Human Immunodeficiany Virus (green) attacking a healthy immune system cell.
Human Immunodeficiany Virus (green) attacking a healthy immune system cell.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus responsible for causing Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The HIV virus was originally identified on December 1st, 1981.

Statistics

  • 38,500 new cases of HIV/AIDS in adults, adolescents, and children were diagnosed in 2015.
  • As of 2015, approximately 1.1 million people are living with HIV. The CDC estimates 15% of people living with HIV do not know they are infected.
  • As of December 31, 2013, 58 confirmed occupational transmissions of HIV and 150 possible transmissions had been reported in the United States.
  • As of 2016, there are about 36.7 million people living with HIV around the world, with only 53% receiving treatment.
  • In 2016, about one million people died from AIDS-related illnesses around the world.

The human immunodeficiency virus attacks and suppresses the immune system, reducing a person’s ability to fight infection. The virus specifically targets the cells crucial for fighting infection from pathogens. This allows diseases and infections to progress without resistance.

Within a few weeks of being infected with HIV, some people develop flu-like symptoms that last for a week or two, but others have no symptoms at all. People living with HIV may appear and feel healthy for several years. However, even if they feel healthy, HIV is still affecting their bodies. Untreated early HIV infection is also associated with many diseases including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer.

Scenario

Stacy is a police officer employed by the city of Denver, Colorado. She is regularly required to respond to emergency medical situations, often arriving before the local ambulance company. As a result, Stacy is frequently exposed to human blood.

Is Stacy likely to contract HIV from exposure to infected blood?

No. If Stacy follows universal precautions she is not likely to contract HIV. Universal precautions involve the use of protective barriers such as gloves, gowns, aprons, masks, or protective eyewear, which can reduce the risk of exposure of the first aid provider’s skin or mucous membranes to potentially infective materials.