By: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Question:As a mom of 5 children, I know I’ve had situations where my children are bleeding and as I rush to help them, I inevitably get their blood on my clothing, skin, etc. As the mom of an HIV positive child, how do you handle these situations? Do you grab a pair of gloves first? Or do you take some kind of drug to counteract the HIV if you do end up directly handling their blood?
ANSWER:Great question Rachel.
Families with HIV+ children practice Universal Precautions whenever there is a blood spill. However, it is a good idea for all families to model responsible handling of blood for their children no matter the HIV status of their family members. Kids need to learn that we never touch anyone’s blood. Teaching them about Universal Precautions enables them to offer assistance to injured persons in a safe and healthy way.
Because our family practices Universal Precautions we have a couple of kits set up in strategic places should we require them. Our main “Clean Up Kit”, as we call it, is in our kitchen. It contains a box of gloves, some antibiotic ointment, a variety of shapes and sizes of band-aids, and a few other common first-aid type ointments. I also keep baggies filled with some gloves, a few paper towels, and a variety of band-aids in my purse and in the glove box of my car.
In Universal Precautions it is suggested that an additional barrier be added between your skin and any body fluid from another person for extra protection. Most people automatically think of plastic gloves because that is what they see medical professionals wear. But, something as simple as a paper towel or a band-aid is just fine for minor cuts and scrapes. Even your clothing is a barrier between spilled blood and your skin.
Most people don’t know that healthy skin is a natural barrier against the HIV virus. So, to address your question, if some blood were to accidentally splash on your clothes or skin there would be no need to panic. Blood to blood contact presents the risk, so if you had an open wound where the blood landed, then there would be some risk, though it would be small.
While HIV may live for a short while outside of the body, HIV transmission has not been reported as a result of contact with spillages or small traces of blood, semen or other bodily fluids. This is partly because HIV dies quite quickly once exposed to the air, and also because spilled fluids would have to get into a person’s bloodstream to infect them.
It should also be noted that the amount of risk blood poses is related to the concentration of HIV virus in it. Obviously, the more virus found in the spilled blood the more the chances the blood has of transmitting HIV. In the majority of patients receiving HAART ( a combination of three or more anti-HIV drugs is often referred to as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) the medication works so well the levels of HIV in their body decreases to undetectable levels. That means that in laboratory tests the HIV virus was not able to be detected in their blood. With decreased levels of HIV in their bodies these patients present an even LOWER level risk should a blood spill occur.
You should know that since the development of HAART there has NEVER been a case of HIV being transmitted within a family. And, as you stated in your letter, families with kids tend to have to deal with blood and injuries some time or another.
If you’d like to do further research Avert.org has a great resource which addresses FAQs about transmission.