Objectives: To summarize the results of a 6-year, ongoing, prospective study of the risk for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission among health care workers, and to estimate the magnitude of the risk for HIV-1 infection associated with different types of occupational exposures.
Design: Prospective cohort study; the median follow-up for employees sustaining parenteral exposures was 30.2 months (range, 6 to 69 months).
Subjects: Health care workers at the Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, including those reporting parenteral and nonparenteral occupational exposures to HIV-1.
Measurements and Main Results: One thousand three hundred and forty-four clinical health care workers reported 179 percutaneous and 346 mucous membrane exposures to fluids from HIV-1-infected patients during a 6-year period. Responding to a supplementary questionnaire, 559 of these workers reported 2712 cutaneous exposures to blood from HIV-1-infected patients and more than 10 000 cutaneous exposures to blood from all patients during a 12-month period. Occupational transmission of HIV-1 occurred in a single worker after a parenteral exposure to blood from an HIV-1-infected patient. No infections occurred after either mucous membrane or cutaneous exposures to blood from HIV-1-infected patients. Use of newer diagnostic technologies (for example, antigen detection, gene amplification) has not resulted in the identification of occupationally transmitted seronegative infections.
Conclusions: Combining our results with those of other prospective studies, the risk for HIV-1 transmission associated with a percutaneous exposure to blood from an HIV-1-infected patient is approximately 0.3% per exposure (95% CI, 0.13% to 0.70%); the risks associated with occupational mucous membrane and cutaneous exposures are likely to be substantially smaller. These data support the use of barrier precautions and suggest a need for strategies that change health care providers' attitudes and behaviors.