Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library HIV: Tips for Caregivers to Avoid Infection

HIV: Tips for Caregivers to Avoid Infection

Topic Overview

HIV is present in the blood, semen, and vaginal fluids of a person who is infected with HIV and is usually spread by:

  • Unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a person who is infected with HIV. Using condoms is the only way to prevent getting or spreading HIV during sexual contact. Other forms of birth control do not protect against HIV.
  • Using a needle or syringe that has previously been used by a person who is infected with HIV. Needles include those used for injecting drugs or steroids or those used for tattoos.

You cannot get HIV through everyday contact with air, food, water, insects, animals, dishes, or toilet seats.

The following preventive steps can eliminate your risk of getting HIV from someone you are caring for.

  • Wear disposable gloves if you may have contact with blood or body fluids from a person who is infected with HIV. Also, cover any cuts, sores, or breaks in your exposed skin. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning articles soiled with urine, feces, or vomit to avoid infection with other germs, even though HIV has never been spread by contact with these body products.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after any contact with blood, even if you wear gloves.
  • Handle needles or lancets carefully to avoid sticking yourself if you are caring for someone who is injecting medicine or must test his or her own blood (for diabetes). Do not put caps back on needles by hand. When handling used syringes, pick them up by the barrel and carefully drop them into a puncture-proof container.
  • If you stick yourself with a used needle, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Contact your doctor as soon as possible to get further evaluation and perhaps treatment with antiviral medications. The risk of developing an HIV infection is slight (about 1 in 300), but this risk can be greatly reduced if you get treatment right away, preferably within 1 to 2 hours. footnote 1

If you are a caregiver for a person who is infected with HIV:

  • Wash clothing and linens as you normally would. The clothes do not need to be separated from the rest of the household laundry.
  • Separate dishes or eating utensils are not needed. Dishes used by a person infected with HIV do not require special methods of cleaning.
  • Let the person infected with HIV prepare meals if he or she would like to. The virus cannot be spread through food handling.
  • Do not share razors or toothbrushes with anyone who has HIV because these items sometimes have blood on them.
  • Flush all liquid waste that contains blood down the toilet.
  • Place in a plastic bag all items that are soiled with blood, semen, or vaginal fluid and are not flushable, such as paper towels, sanitary pads and tampons, and wound dressings. Close the bag securely before placing it in a trash container. Check with your doctor or local health department to be sure you are following proper disposal regulations for your area.

A person who is infected with HIV can sometimes have other infections that may be contagious. The following steps can prevent the spread of other infections.

  • Gastroenteritis may cause diarrhea in a person who is infected with HIV. Wear gloves if you come in contact with the person's feces, and wash your hands carefully with soap and water afterward. You should not prepare food for others if you have diarrhea.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) may be the cause of a cough that has been present for more than a week or two in someone who has HIV. Anyone who lives with or visits the home of a person who has TB should be checked by a doctor, even if no cough has developed.
  • Chickenpox can cause serious problems for a person who has HIV. Avoid contact with anyone you know who has chickenpox.
  • Herpes simplex can be spread by kissing or touching the fever blisters or cold sores around the mouth or nose of a person who has HIV.
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) may be present in urine and saliva of a person who has HIV. Wash your hands carefully after touching the person's saliva or urine. Wear disposable gloves if you know you are going to come in contact with urine. This is particularly important if you are pregnant because a pregnant woman who becomes infected with CMV may give the virus to her baby.
References

References

Citations

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005). Updated U.S. Public Health Services guidelines for the management of occupational exposures to HIV and recommendations for postexposure prophylaxis. MMWR, 50(RR-09): 1–17. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5409a1.htm.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Infection

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details