Objective: To assess the occupational risk of infection by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as well as hepatitis B virus (HBV) among healthcare workers in south-eastern Nigeria.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Three tertiary health institutions in south-eastern Nigeria.
Subjects: Doctors, nurses, laboratory staff and cleaners.
Main outcome measures: Observation of the availability and use of protective equipment and materials in the various departments of the hospitals.
Results: Materials and equipments needed for protective and hygienic practices (adequate water supply, protective clothing and availability of disinfectants) were inadequate in all hospitals. Where available, they were found to be inconsistently used. Health workers in the three institutions were thus constantly exposed unnecessarily to blood and other body fluids which might be potentially infectious as well as injury from used sharps.
Conclusion: The risk of acquiring HIV and HBV infections by health workers in this region of Nigeria in the course of performing their duties is therefore still apparently high. Though distinct viruses, they share similar mode of transmission and risk factors. Use of personal protective equipment and adoption of standard hygienic practices among health workers must be encouraged. Supply of protective materials and equipment should be greatly improved. It is recommended that reduction of occupational risks among health workers using this approach should form part of control strategies for both infections in the country.