Occupational HIV infection among health care workers exposed to blood and body fluids in Brazil

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Exposure to bloodborne pathogens poses a serious risk to health care workers (HCWs). Surveillance systems of occupationally acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection have been developed in several countries, mainly in the developed world. The purpose of this study was to identify cases of occupationally acquired HIV infection among HCWs in Brazil.


A systematic literature review was conducted. The databases searched were MEDLINE and LILACS (1981 to 2004), academic dissertations and theses (1987 to 2004), abstracts from national and international meetings during the last 10 years, and local and national bulletins. Reference lists to identify other relevant articles were checked.


The database searches generated a total of 60,770 titles. Two hundred and nineteen references were finally analyzed. Four documented cases of occupational HIV infection were identified. All of the cases involved nursing staff and were percutaneous exposures. Seventy-five percent occurred after a procedure involving a needle placed directly into a vein or artery. Most (75%) had source patients with probable high viral load and low CD4 count. Two cases represented HIV seroconversion despite initiation of postexposure prophylaxis. Only one case (1/4; 25%) presented acute retroviral illness.


After an extensive literature search, 4 documented occupational HIV infection cases were identified, only 1 of which had been published in a scientific journal. Our findings were consistent with the majority of documented infections worldwide. Surveillance systems are indispensable to establish and formulate rational policies for minimizing the risk of occupational infection, not only from HIV but also from hepatitis B and C viruses and other bloodborne pathogens.

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