OBJECTIVES--To assess the knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of risk of occupational HIV transmission in hospital in relation to existing guidelines. DESIGN--Cross sectional anonymous questionnaire survey of all occupational groups. SETTING--One large inner city teaching hospital. SUBJECTS--All 1530 staff working in the hospital in October 1991 and 22 managers. MAIN MEASURES--Knowledge of safe working practices and hospital guidelines; attitudes towards patients with AIDS; perception of risk of occupational transmission of HIV; availability of guidelines. RESULTS--The response rate in the questionnaire survey was 63% (958/1530). Although staff across all occupational groups knew of the potential risk of infection from needlestick injury (98%, 904/922), significantly more non-clinical staff (ambulance, catering, and domestic staff) than clinical staff (doctors, nurses, and paramedics) thought HIV could be transmitted by giving blood (38%, 153/404 v 12%, 40/346; chi 2 = 66.1 p < 0.001); one in ten clinical staff believed this. Except for midwives, half of staff in most occupational groups and 19% (17/91) of doctors and 22% (28/125) of nurses thought gloves should be worn in all contacts with people with AIDS. Most staff (62%, 593/958), including 38% (36/94) of doctors and 52% (67/128) of nurses thought patients should be routinely tested on admission, 17% of doctors and 19% of nurses thought they should be isolated in hospital. One in three staff perceived themselves at risk of HIV. Midwives, nurses, and theatre technicians were most aware of guidelines for safe working compared with only half of doctors, ambulance, and paramedical staff and no incinerator staff. CONCLUSIONS--Policy guidelines for safe working practices for patients with HIV infection and AIDS need to be disseminated across all occupational groups to reduce negative staff attitudes, improve knowledge of occupational transmission, establish an appropriate perception of risk, and create a supportive and caring hospital environment for people with HIV. IMPLICATIONS--Managers need to disseminate policy guidelines and information to all staff on an ongoing basis.
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