Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Healthcare Settings

General Information about HIV

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV destroys blood cells called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight disease. This results in a weakened immune system, making persons with HIV or AIDS at risk for many different types of infections. Transmission of HIV to patients while in healthcare settings is rare. However, proper sterilization and disinfection procedures are required to prevent infection risks. Most exposures do not result in infection.

hiv image

For more images of this bacterium, search the Public Health Image Library

Transmission of HIV

Although HIV transmission is possible in healthcare settings, it is extremely rare. Medical experts emphasize that the careful practice of infection control procedures, including universal precautions (i.e., using protective practices and personal protective equipment to prevent transmission of HIV and other bloodborne infections), protects patients as well as healthcare providers from possible HIV transmission in medical and dental settings. Healthcare personnel are at risk for occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens including HIV. Important factors that influence the overall risk for occupational exposures to bloodborne pathogens include the number of infected individuals in the patient population and the type and number of blood contacts. Transmission of HIV to patients while in healthcare settings is rare; however, proper sterilization and disinfection procedures are required.

CDC has documented rare cases of patients contracting HIV in healthcare settings from infected donor tissue.

For more information, see HIV Transmission

For more information visit CDC’s HIV web site.

Lab Practices & Testing for HIV in Healthcare Settings

U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for Testing and Counseling Blood and Plasma Donors for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Antigen. MMWR 1996

Transmission of HIV

CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network has a healthcare personnel safety component aimed at monitoring occupational exposures among healthcare personnel (HCP) in the United States. The component consists of four modules: Blood/Body Fluids Exposure with Exposure Management, Blood/Body Fluids Exposure Only, Influenza Exposure Management, and Influenza Vaccination with (or without) Exposure Management. Visit CDC’s NHSN web site for more information.

Sharps Safety Workbook

Protecting Healthcare Personnel from HIV

National Clinicians Post-Exposure Prophylaxis Hotline (PEPline)external icon
Hotline providing clinicians with 24-hour guidance on managing occupational exposures to HIV, viral hepatitis, and other bloodborne pathogens

Retired Guidance and Resources

The following guidance and resources have been retired and are included on this webpage for historic and reference purposes only. These are no longer considered current CDC guidance.