What are the risks of HIV infection among passengers during a traffic accident? For example, if during a car accident, an HIV+ passenger's blood comes into contact with an open wound of a HIV- passenger, what are the chances of infection?
Anytime that you come into direct contact with blood there is risk involved, especially if you have an open wound or if the blood enters your system through an opening such as the vagina or anus. If you touch blood with intact skin, there is no risk of HIV infection, but other blood borne diseases are possible. So if in a car accident, the risk for HIV transmission would be if you are wounded and come into contact with someone else who is wounded and there is an exchange of blood.
Following "universal precautions" by wearing latex gloves before you touch another person's blood or open wound is a good idea. Use bleach mixed with water to clean up spills of blood or other body fluids. Because accidents do occur, it is a good idea to have a readily accessible first-aid kit with gloves, bleach, etc in your car.
If you feel that you may have come into contact with blood that may have entered your body, you may want to go to an emergency room for possible Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), an emergency medical response that can be used to protect individuals exposed to HIV. PEP consists of medication, laboratory tests and counselling. Ideally PEP should be initiated within 2-24 hours (and no later than 48-72 hours) of possible exposure to HIV, and must continue for approximately four weeks.
If you have passed the 72 hour period, PEP is no longer possible, and you may want to go for an HIV test to confirm whether you have been exposed to the virus.