Protecting Yourself

While caring for a loved one with HIV, it’s important to take several steps to protect yourself from developing infection.

A person who has AIDS may sometimes have infections that can make you sick. You can protect yourself, however. Talk to a doctor to find out what germs can infect you and other people in the house. For example, diarrhea can be caused by several different germs. Wear disposable gloves if you have to clean up after or help a loved one with diarrhea, and wash your hands carefully after you take the gloves off. Do not use disposable gloves more than one time.

If your loved one has a cough that lasts longer than a week, a doctor should check for tuberculosis (TB). If the test comes back positive, then you and everybody else living in the house should be checked for TB infection, even if you aren’t coughing. If you’re infected with TB germs, you can take medicine that will prevent you from developing TB.

If the person you care for gets yellow jaundice (a sign of acute hepatitis) or has chronic hepatitis B infection, you and everybody else living in the house and all of your loved ones sexual partners should talk to a doctor to see if anyone needs to take medicine to prevent hepatitis.

If your loved one develops fever blisters or cold sores (herpes simplex) around the mouth or nose, don’t kiss or touch the sores. If you have to touch the sores during the caregiving process, wear gloves and wash your hands carefully as soon as you remove the gloves. This is especially important if you have eczema, since the herpes simplex virus can cause severe skin disease in people with eczema.

Many persons with or without AIDS are infected with a virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can be spread in urine or saliva. Wash your hands after touching urine or saliva from your loved one with AIDS. This is especially important for someone who may be pregnant because a pregnant woman infected with CMV can also infect her unborn child, causeing birth defects including deafness.

Remember, to protect yourself and the person with AIDS from these diseases and others. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water:

  • Before and after giving care
  • When handling food
  • After taking gloves of
  • After going to the bathroom

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from Caring for Someone with AIDS at Home: A Guide, ACTIS Publication No. D817, prepared by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, AIDS Clinical Trial Information Service.

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