Facts on AIDS: A Law Enforcement Guide - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Facts on AIDS: A Law Enforcement Guide

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On this page:
Risk Behaviors
Infection Control Procedures
For More Information


Being a police officer does not put one at increased risk for contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.  Increased risk comes through needle sharing and certain sexual behaviors, not through the performance of one’s duties as a police officer.

AIDS is one of the most serious public health problems in today’s society.  Since 1981, when AIDS was first reported, about 1,129,127 cases have been diagnosed in the U.S.  Researchers estimate that about 1.2 million are currently living with HIV in the country with about one-fifth that are unaware of their infection. AIDS stands for:

  • Acquired – a disease you catch by doing something.
  • Immunodeficiency – a weakness in the body’s defense system.
  • Syndrome – a group of various related illnesses.


HIV is spread from one person to another by sharing injecting drug needles or through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse with an HIV infected person.  Direct contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluids is generally necessary to transmit HIV.  This includes exposure of broken skin or mucous membranes to blood or any blood by-product.  Transmission also occurs from an infected mother to her infant before or during the birth process or through breast milk.

Casual contact with HIV-infected persons does not place others at risk for getting the illness.  Although a few cases have been found where HIV has been transmitted in household settings, the situations have involved blood contact.  There is no risk at work, school, or at home.

HIV infection cannot be spread by:

  • Shaking hands
  • Social Kiss
  • Insects
  • Hugging
  • Swimming Pools
  • Animals
  • Coughing
  • Toilet Seats
  • Cups
  • Sneezing
  • Food
  • Air
  • Handcuffing
  • Riding in a car
  • Pens/Pencils

Risk Behaviors

People are more likely to become infected if they:

  • Have vaginal or anal sex without a latex or polyurethane condom.
  • Have oral sex without a condom or other latex barrier.
  • Share needles to inject drugs, body pierce, or tattoo.
  • Received HIV-infected Factor VIII blood clotting products prior to April of 1985.
  • Received an infected blood transfusion prior to blood screening in April 1985.

An important fact to remember is that HIV is a blood-borne virus.  There is no evidence showing that HIV has been transmitted through casual contact or through the air.

In the absence of a cure or vaccine, education is the key to prevention.


Most people who are infected with HIV have no symptoms and appear healthy.  Since you can never tell who may be infected with HIV, you need to take the same precautions with every person.

Law enforcement personnel need to be careful when dealing with a bleeding wound or injury, with semen or vaginal fluids from a person who has been raped, during the delivery of a baby, and with used drug needles.

A person infected with HIV cannot infect you by breathing or coughing on you.


  • It is important for law enforcement personnel to promptly cover and bandage all cuts, wounds, and abrasions prior to performing other duties.
  • When performing a search of a person, exercise caution to avoid accidental needle stick injury.  If a needle stick occurs, wash site thoroughly and immediately with soap and water or 70% isopropyl alcohol.  Report the incident immediately.  Further medical follow-up may be appropriate.
  • Use disposable breathalyzer masks on drunk driver suspects.*
  • When responding to medical emergencies where rescue breathing is necessary, use medical oxygen, a bag valve mask, or portable pocket mask.  Avoid mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-nose contact.*
  • Wear disposable gloves to avoid contact with blood, body fluids, and discharges.
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling evidence contaminated with blood or body fluids.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke when handling evidence.
  • Do not pipette biological material by mouth.
  • Burn or chemically decontaminate all biologic specimens.
  • In the courtroom, whenever possible, refer to biologically contaminated evidence by photographs or in sealed, clear plastic bags.
  • If accidentally exposed to HIV, post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is available. PEP provides antiviral medications for a period of time after exposure. PEP is most effective if given within the first hour and no longer than 72 hours after exposure.

* HIV has been found in the saliva of some HIV-infected patients; however there is no known or suspected case of HIV infection having been transmitted through saliva.  These precautions are mentioned as good hygiene measures, and are intended to reduce one’s risk of becoming exposed to other infectious agents including hepatitis B or hepatitis C as blood may be present.

Infection Control Procedures

HIV is a fragile virus outside the body.  The following procedures can reduce the likelihood of transmission:

  • Use disinfectants such as:
    • 70% isopropyl alcohol
    • one part bleach to ten parts water
    • waterless soap
  • Wash hands after contact with bodily fluids with hot, soapy water.
  • Clean and bandage all cuts and abrasions.
  • Body fluid spills should be wiped up immediately and the surface area should then be disinfected.
  • Soiled clothing may be cleaned in hot, soapy water or dry cleaned.
  • Instruments, padding, helmets, weapons, floors, vehicles and other soiled items can be cleaned with soap and water, while wearing disposable latex gloves.  Sterilize with disinfectants like diluted bleach and water (1:10 ratio) or rubbing alcohol.
  • Dispose of used needles in puncture-proof containers.  Do not break or try to re-cap a needle, as you may jab yourself.
  • Prepare a first aid kit for your vehicle containing the following items:
    • 70% isopropyl alcohol
    • sterile wipes
    • sterile gauze
    • tape
    • plastic sharps container
    • latex gloves
    • Zip lock plastic bags

For More Information

The MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing, and referrals to HIV testing sites, community resources, and prevention programs.  Call…

Minnesota AIDS Project AIDSLine:
Metro Area:
612-373-AIDS, 612-373-2465 TTY
1-800-248-AIDS, 1-888-820-2437 TTY

For more information about Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STDs/STIs), contact Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline:
1-800-783-2287 voice/TTY
651-645-9360 (Metro area)

To order more brochures, or if you require this document in another format, such as large print, Braille, or cassette tape, call 651-201-5414

Based upon materials published by the New Jersey Department of Health

Content Notice: This site contains HIV or STD prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Since HIV and other STDs are spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs may address these topics. If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, please exit this web site.