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New CDC Recommendations For HIV Exposure

Anyone exposed should be treated...

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Updated January 23, 2005

In an effort to decrease HIV infection through incidental exposure, the Centers for Disease Control has announced it now recommends emergency HIV treatment for people exposed to HIV outside of the health care industry. This reverses a recommendation from 1996 that limited emergency HIV treatment to health care workers exposed on the job through needle sticks or bodily fluid exposure. The new recommendation makes emergency treatment available to rape victims, occasional IV drug users, and those who have isolated high risk sexual encounters.

For years, health and prevention professionals have contended that the old policy was "unconscionable", possibly resulting in an untold number of HIV infections that may have been prevented with emergency HIV treatment. While some states such as New York developed their own treatment policies for rape victims, gay men, and IV drug users, a national standard of care has not been in place outside of the health care industry.

In the past, the CDC was reluctant to make such a recommendation due to a limited amount of data that proved the effectiveness of emergency treatment. But with the emergence of recent lab data that showed positive effects for those incidentally exposed, the CDC felt it was time to change their recommendation.

The CDC emphasized that their new recommendation is not a substitute for reducing the incidence of high risk behaviors including unsafe sex and sharing needles. The CDC added that the recommendation did not apply to chronic IV drug users or those who frequently engage in high risk sexual behavior.

More features about HIV prevention and emergency HIV treatment are available.

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