There is a recent upsurge of interest among health care professionals regarding the risk of accidental occupational exposure to HIV virus. We evaluated knowledge of virus carriage prevalence, needlestick injuries, venepuncture practices, and glove use among paediatricians in Wales and South West Regional Health Authorities. We also attempted to evaluate hepatitis B immunisation uptake in this group. Paediatricians have traditionally been considered a low risk group in the context of accidental occupational exposure to these viruses. We targeted a four point questionnaire at 221 paediatricians. Results suggested that despite recent increasing concern about these viruses, that is reflected in the amount of medical literature recently published, and the issuing of Department of Health guidelines on venepuncture, knowledge of prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B carriage rates, and hence assessment of risk magnitude, was surprisingly poor. Safe venepuncture practices were not widely used. In the 12 months before receiving the questionnaire 55% had suffered a needlestick injury with only 10% reporting the fact. Hepatitis B immunisation uptake was highest in the junior grades (but this does not necessarily mean those at greatest risk). There were many inconsistencies between the clinicians' perceptions of risk and their practices. As the virus attains a firm hold in the heterosexual population paediatricians by virtue of the nature of venepuncture in children will almost certainly see their risk of acquiring HIV/hepatis B viruses secondary to accidental occupational exposure increase over the next decade. Without an improvement in current knowledge of carriage prevalence in high risk areas and alteration in venepuncture practices/hepatitis B immunisation uptake some will unfortunately, though avoidably, contract these bloodborne viral infections.
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