Question:

A health care worker has an accidental “needle-stick” injury at work and within a few months changes from HIV-negative to HIV-positive on blood tests. Six months later the individual has no physical symptoms, but needs to be rated for permanent impairment to permit settlement of this workers' compensation injury. What is the appropriate permanent impairment rating using the Guides for this circumstance?

Answer:

Although an uncommon problem, accidental needle-stick injuries do happen. Conversion, or permanently acquiring the virus, can usually be recognized within a matter of months of the needle-stick incident. Progression from being a carrier of the virus to becoming actively ill with manifestations of AIDS generally takes years. Most state workers' compensation rules require a decision on permanent impairment long before the expected progression from being an HIV carrier to being an active AIDS case occurs.

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