Junior UK Doctors Ignorant
Of HIV Safety Steps

LONDON (Reuters) - Most junior doctors know the risks they run of exposure to HIV but many are unaware that they can protect themselves by taking a course of drugs immediately after exposure, according to a survey published on Thursday.
The postal survey carried out by researchers in Australia said two-thirds of the junior hospital doctors at two top London teaching hospitals were ignorant that prophylactic drug treatment could cut the risk of infection after exposure.
"Virtually all of them had heard of PEP (post exposure prophylaxis), but one in five was unaware that it could reduce the risk of infection," said the survey in the Sexually Transmitted Infections journal.
It said only eight percent of 350 doctors surveyed at St. Thomas's and Guy's hospitals could name the three drugs recommended for prophylactic use -- zidovudine, lamivudine and indinavir.
Guidelines issued by Britain's department of health suggest taking a cocktail of the three drugs for a month starting within one hour of exposure to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Yet four out of 10 of the doctors surveyed by researchers from the Sydney Sexual Health Centre could not name any of the drugs and one-third did not know they needed to be taken within an hour of exposure.
It said three-quarters of the doctors had been exposed to HIV at some stage in their careers, but there was still a very low level of usage of simple protective equipment such as gloves.
"We feel that it is of great importance to improve the level of knowledge about occupational exposure to HIV among junior hospital doctors," the survey said.
"This should include education on how to prevent exposure, as well as information on first aid, who to contact and the urgency with which advice on PEP needs to be sought."

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