n Obstetrics and Gynaecology Forum - Occupational exposure to HIV amongst health care workers in the maternity unit at King Edward VIII hospital, Durban, South Africa : original article




The increasing HIV sero-prevalence amongst pregnant women places health care workers in busy labour wards at high risk of occupational exposure to HIV.<br><I>Aim:</I> The aim of this study was to determine whether there has been a change in the prevalence of needle-stick and sharps injuries at King Edward VIII Hospital, Durban, South Africa, since the first study done on the issue in 1999, and if so - the reasons. <br><I>Design:</I> A cross-sectional retrospective survey assessing the prevalence of needle-stick and sharps injuries which occurred from January 2003 to December 2003. <br><I>Setting:</I> The study was conducted at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, King Edward VIII Hospital, Durban, South Africa. <br><I>Method:</I> Staff members in the labour ward, including doctors, nurses, student nurses, and supportive staff, i.e. cleaners, porters, and messengers were interviewed and asked to fill in a structured questionnaire. <br><I>Results:</I> Healthcare workers (114) were interviewed over a period of 1 year, from January to December 2003. 49 of the 90 (54%) who agreed to participate reported an incident of exposure to patients' body fluids, 19 of who were through sharp injuries (21%); forty percent of exposures occurred with known HIV infected patients, whereas at least 28% of patients sero-status was unknown at the time of the exposure. Only 61% of the sharps injuries were reported, and of these, only a third of the health workers completed the prescribed 4 week course of prophylactic antiretroviral treatment. <br><I>Conclusion:</I> This study showed an increase in the number of HIV exposures amongst health workers, and most of these are as a result of lack of adherence with preventative measures. Improved reporting mechanisms which ensure confidentiality may assist health workers to deal with this.


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