HIV Infection and AIDS
HIV stands for ‘human immunodeficiency virus’ and AIDS for ‘acquired immune deficiency syndrome’.
HIV infects certain types of white blood cell, including cells that are key elements of the human immune system. This leads to the death of the cells and ultimately to a state of generalised immunodeficiency and AIDS. In some cases, infection of the central nervous system occurs, often leading to progressive brain damage.
Several different conditions may occur as a result of HIV infection that precedes the development of AIDS. Most infected individuals generate antibodies to HIV within a few weeks after infection and, during this period, may develop a self-limiting illness resembling glandular fever. After a longer period, some develop a long-lasting generalised enlargement of the lymph glands. Other non-specific symptoms (including fever, night sweats and swollen lymph glands) are associated with progressive immune dysfunction. When AIDS develops fully, which often takes several years, it is characterised by the appearance of secondary opportunistic infections and tumours.
Despite considerable genetic variation in HIV, worldwide, most infections have been transmitted sexually or by blood – the latter being principally via blood transfusion, or from contaminated injecting equipment such as hypodermic needles.
For the majority of Council employees there is no increased risk of exposure to HIV as a consequence of their employment. However, there will be individuals whose duties may occasionally expose them to bodily fluids such as blood, or to used and possibly contaminated hypodermic needles. The risk of transmission in such circumstances is extremely low and can be avoided by following good hygienic working practices.
In accordance with health and safety law, it is essential to identify which employees may be exposed to the risk of contracting HIV and AIDS because of their work activities, to assess that risk and to implement suitable measures to control the risk. Practicable measures to eliminate or minimise the risk must be taken when such a risk has been identified. In such instances employees must be provided with training to enable them to follow good hygienic practices and appropriate health and safety measures.
Advice on HIV infection and AIDS can be obtained from both the Health and Safety Team, Tŷ Elai, Williamstown, CF40 1NY, telephone number 01443 425546, and from the Occupational Health and Wellbeing Unit, Municipal Buildings, Gelliwastad Road, Pontypridd, CF37 2DP, telephone number 01443 494003.