A Qualitative Study of Perceived Risk of Occupational Exposure to HIV and Use of Post Exposure Prophylaxis Services Among Health-Care Workers in Tanzania

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Edith AM Tarimo
Kijakazi O Mashoto


Background: Occupational exposure to HIV continues to present a risk of HIV infections to health-care workers (HCWs) in low-income countries. Since 2005, policies in Tanzania have been in place to guide the implementation of HIV/AIDS post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) interventions in the workplace. However, little is known about how frontline HCWs experience and view these interventions. This study aimed to explore how HCWs perceive their HIV infection risk and capture their experiences of workplace HIV/AIDS interventions.

Methods: A descriptive qualitative design was used. Medical and nonmedical personnel from 2 hospitals in the Pwani and Dodoma regions of Tanzania participated in the study. We conducted 22 In-depth interviews (IDIs) with HCWs (heads of departments, hospital units, or sections). A content analysis approach was used.

Results: The HCWs perceived and reasoned that working in medical wards, incinerator units, dental units, obstetric wards, laundries, laboratories, and mortuaries exposed them to HIV acquisition risk. Many of the medically trained personnel reported that invasive procedures exposed them to some risk of HIV infection. Nonmedical personnel reported to be potentially exposed to HIV infection while incorrectly handling discarded needles and blades (sharps). Although most HCWs expressed awareness about the availability of postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), not all HCWs knew where to report and whom to contact in case of accidents. Ignorance about the implications of exposure to contaminated sharps hindered PEP use among certain cadres. Also, some PEP users were reported to experience side effects, but they were motivated to complete the doses to remain healthy.

Conclusion: Occupational exposure to HIV infection remains a significant concern to HCWs, particularly among nonmedical cadres. Despite expressed awareness about infection prevention and control, the reporting channels and the strategies to promote recognition of the importance of using PEP services after exposure need to be strengthened.

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