In my line of work, I see a lot of “end-stage” diseases. Sometimes COPD, sometimes lung CA, sometimes AIDS.
My job is not to judge how these diseases came to be. My job is to treat the patient, and I do that to the best of my ability.
However, at certain times I need to know some stuff that my patients may not be willing to let me in on, and that worries me.
Lately we in the medical community have been indoctrinated as to HIPAAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which, in essence is a protective measure to insure a patient’s privacy to the nth degree. That’s fine. No problem, and I have used it recently in protecting one of my patients. (Neighbor parked next door in ER wanted to know what her friend’s ECG showed!)
If one of my patients tested HIV positive, and I am called in to treat that patient, I feel it is my right to know this information, because I or my loved ones may be at risk if I am infected.
Many times I am called on to draw arterial blood to determine respiratory status. Sometimes the patient is still, sometimes not. Even if he/she is still, that’s no guarantee they will remain so after I introduce the needle, so the opportunity exists for a repeat “needle stick”: (Into the patient and then into me.)
So I propose that if a patient has been diagnosed as HIV positive, she/he (or family) needs to let us know this before treatment. It is not pre-judgemental. All kinds of reasons exist for someone to become infected, and those of us in health-care aren’t stupid: We know to take a good history.
If we’re not sure, then BY GOD we need to be held accountable to ourselves and use “Universal Precautions”!
Unfortunately, in an ER situation you can’t stay “dressed out” all the time so we’re “caught short” a lot of the time.
Still, I/We have a right to know.