Universal precautions mean just that — so why am I being treated differently?

Hospitals and healthcare workers are required to take universal precautions to reduce the risk of cross infection from both recognised and non-recognised sources of infection. All the way through my life since I was diagnosed with HIV, I have been very much aware of the precautions needed to prevent infection from my blood. However, the precautions needed for me are the same as the precautions needed for everyone else. I am not aware of any reason why items that have come into contact with my blood should be treated any differently from similar items from other people.

Now, for the last few weeks I have been receiving my dialysis in a treatment room off the main dialysis unit in the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore. At the end of my treatment, the needles (that have been in my arm to take out and return the blood for my dialysis) are taken out and put in a sharps bin. This seems perfectly normal. At least it did until last Saturday when I was informed that

You’ll need to use this small sharps bin because of your condition.

I asked why this was and was told that

It’s because the other bin in the room is a large one, and as soon as your needles are in it has to be sent off to be incinerated.

I find this rather strange. After all, what do they think my needles are going to do to the other needles in the bin. Are they really that more a danger to the staff? Also, my viral load is undetectable. That means I am very low risk for transmission of HIV anyway.

So, readers will not be surprised that I have inquired via HIV Ireland about whether they think this is an appropriate procedure. I have also contacted the Clinical Nurse Manager to be given a copy of the Infection Control protocols for the hospital that (presumably) state the reasons for this procedure.

Watch out here for further updates.

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