Accessing Medical Care After a Needlestick Injury: First Responders’ Perception of HIV Risk and Attitudes Toward Syringe Service Programs

Gregory Carter, Carrie Lawrence, Brennan Woodward, Anita Ohmit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


First responders have an increased risk of occupational exposure to HIV as the result of a needlestick injury (NSI) because of the chaotic prehospital environment in which they provide care. Approximately 2.3 of every 1000 first responders (0.23%) who are exposed to HIV via a NSI risk seroconversion if left untreated. Participants completed a 28-question online survey examining level of concern about HIV, thoughts about injection drug use, number of accidental NSIs, and medical services received after a needlestick. First, all data were analyzed descriptively. Second, a multiple linear regression model was used to explore the level of concern about HIV as a function of the predictor variables. Nearly half of the respondents worked as paramedics (n = 141, 23.5%) or emergency medical technicians (n = 154, 25.7%), followed by 15.5% (n = 93) and 11.3% (n = 62) who indicated their primary first responder affiliation as “firefighter” or “police,” respectively. The majority of the study population identified as male (75%, n = 450); 24.8% identified as female (n = 149). Slightly more first responders reported receiving no medical services after a needlestick (9.8%, n = 59) than received an HIV screening (9.5%, n = 57), and only 3.2% (n = 19) of those who experienced a needlestick reported receiving post-exposure prophylaxis. The results suggest that perceived risk of HIV infection via needlestick ultimately influences follow-up medical screening. Greater concern about HIV is significantly associated with HIV screening and willingness to obtain post-exposure prophylaxis. Future research should examine the impact of continued HIV education and policies outlining medical evaluation and other post-exposures procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-560
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • First responders
  • HIV
  • Needlestick injury
  • Syringe exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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