PCP HIV AIDS Toolkit/HIV Transmission/Handout G: Universal Precautions
Handout G: Universal Precautions
Universal precautions is a term usually used by health-care professionals working in hospital and clinic settings. It means that people should always protect themselves “universally” from diseases that are transmitted via blood and body fluids (such as HIV and hepatitis). You should not decide to use barriers for protection from infectious bodily fluids based on how sick a person may look or how at risk they appear to be
When handling blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or breast milk, you must create a barrier between the fluid and the portals of entry. When dealing with any of the above fluids:
- Use latex gloves. If you are allergic to latex, use vinyl gloves.
- Clean up blood spills immediately: wear latex gloves and wipe up spills with a bleach and water solution; then dispose of soiled items in plastic bags.
- Put used injection needles in puncture-proof “sharps” containers. Do not recap needles, as this is the most common way that health-care workers have infected themselves.
- If a person you are with begins to bleed, hand him or her a cloth to stop the bleeding (if possible) until medical help arrives.
- If working in a situation where blood could be splattered in your face, cover your eyes with glasses and your nose and mouth with a mask, if possible.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- At your school or worksite, keep a first-aid kit with gloves and bandages and antiseptic available.
- If you do become exposed, contact a medical officer immediately for possible prophylactic treatment.
Proper disposal of the protective barrier, such as gloves, is also important, as is hand washing after the event. These precautions also protect you from hepatitis, which is much more infectious than HIV.
- The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. “Report on Blood Safety and HIV/AIDS, June 2006.” http://www.pepfar.gov/progress/76858.htm (accessed May 25, 2007).