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Exposure risk from phlebotomist??
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This forum is limited to prevention of HIV and to safe sex in general. All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Exposure risk from phlebotomist??

Hello there,

I recently went to a walk-in clinic located in an area where bloodborne diseases are highly prevalent.

The doctor orders blood drawn.  While I'm waiting, I observe an employee of the clinic carrying urine samples without gloves on.  This same employee eventually comes in to draw my blood.

I did not observe him wash his hands.  Without gloves on, he ties my arm and feels for the vein.
Once located, he puts gloves on, uses the alcohol swab, but then proceeds to rip the fingers off one of the gloves
and feel my arm again with his bare hand.  He then inserts the needle.

Given that I did not observe any hand washing (either before or after) and had seen him carrying urine samples without gloves, do I need to be concerned about this?  If he's drawing blood in a similar fashion from an HIV+ patient right before me, not washing his hands, etc., is this putting me at risk?

I mentioned it to my new doctor, and he said that the gloves are mainly to protect him, not me, and that I'm fine.

Do I need to be tested?

Thank you.
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Welcome to the forum.  First response, based only on the title of your question, before I read anything else:  HIV is never transmitted by having blood drawn.  That might have happened a few times in the old days (more than 15 years ago), from reusing needles.  I'll bet nobody ever caught HIV because the phlebotomist was infected.

Now I have read the question itself.  Your doctor is correct:  gloves are recommended for medical procedures to protect the health worker from exposure to patients' blood or body secretions, not the other way around.

Standard recommendations do not require health workers to wear gloves when carrying specimens, as long as the containers are closed properly.  It might be wise for him to start doing so with urine containers, since there is a good chance of contamination of the outside when patients produce the specimens.  But urine isn't highly infectious for most viruses and bacteria, and certainly not for HIV -- so he probably isn't at serious risk.  But regardless of all this, it sounds like he used proper technique when drawing your blood.

Bottom line: Absolutely no risk and you do not need HIV testing.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD
2 Comments
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Dr. HHH,

Many thanks for both your brief and detailed response to my question.
When I developed a strange illness about 3 weeks after this incident, I became concerned.  Guess it was just an unrelated virus.

Best to you,
JEB
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