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Ask the Experts Q & A

Q: A clinical employee believes that she should be offered immediate prophylactic treatment for HIV if she sustains a needlestick. Is this true?

A: Not unless the source patient is known to be HIV positive and, even then, not in all cases. HIV drugs have serious side effects and must be taken for about six months. To top it off, their efficacy is relatively unknown, so the CDC recommends prophylaxis only when the sharps injury is caused by an object visibly contaminated with an HIV-positive patient's blood. For advice on whether or not prophylaxis is needed, call the National Clinicians' Post Exposure Prophylaxis Hotline (PEP-Line) at (888) 448-4911.

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