Missed Opportunities for HIV Prophylaxis Among Emergency Department Patients With Occupational and Nonoccupational Body Fluid Exposures

Ann Emerg Med. 2016 Sep;68(3):315-323.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2016.03.027. Epub 2016 Apr 22.


Study objective: Exposures to HIV are frequently managed in the emergency department (ED) for assessment and potential initiation of HIV postexposure prophylaxis. Despite established guidelines, it is unclear whether patients with a nonoccupational exposure are managed similarly to patients with an occupational exposure.

Methods: This retrospective study used an administrative database to identify consecutive patients at a single ED with a discharge diagnosis of "blood or body fluid exposure" without sexual assault from April 1, 2007 to June 30, 2013. Patient exposure details and physician management were ascertained according to predefined guidelines. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients with high-risk exposures who were correctly given HIV prophylaxis; the secondary outcome was the proportion of patients with low-risk exposures who were correctly not given HIV prophylaxis. Other outcomes included the proportion of patients who had a baseline HIV test in the ED, the proportion who followed up with an HIV test within 6 months, and the number of seroconversions in this group. All outcomes were compared between nonoccupational and occupational exposure.

Results: Of 1,972 encounters, 1,358 patients (68.9%) had an occupational exposure and 614 (31.1%) had a nonoccupational exposure. In the occupational exposure group, 190 patients (14.0%) were deemed high risk, with 160 (84.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 78.1% to 88.9%) appropriately given prophylaxis. In the nonoccupational exposure group, 287 patients (46.7%) had a high-risk exposure, with 208 (72.5%; 95% CI 66.8% to 77.5%) given prophylaxis, for a difference of 11.7% (95% CI 3.8% to 19.1%). For low-risk exposures, appropriate management of both occupational and nonoccupational exposure was similar (92.4% versus 93.0%). At the index ED visit, 90.5% of occupational exposure patients and 76.7% of nonoccupational exposure patients received HIV testing, for a difference of 13.8% (95% CI 10.1% to 17.7%). At 6 months, 25.4% of patients with an occupational exposure and 35.0% of patients with a nonoccupational exposure had a follow-up test, for a difference of -9.6% (95% CI -14.2% to -5.1%). Of patients who had follow-up testing within 6 months, 4 of 215 (1.9%) in the nonoccupational exposure group tested newly positive for HIV, whereas 0 of 345 (0%) in the occupational exposure group tested positive.

Conclusion: For ED patients with blood or body fluid exposures, those with high-risk nonoccupational exposures were not given HIV prophylaxis nearly twice as often as those with high-risk occupational exposure. Although 6-month follow-up testing rates were low, 1.9% of high-risk nonoccupational exposure patients seroconverted.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • British Columbia
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needlestick Injuries / therapy
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis* / methods
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis* / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult