Surgeons in developing countries have an inordinate amount of risk of HIV exposure. Protective measures such as wearing eye masks and double-gloving confer substantial benefit. The annual occupational risk of HIV transmission was estimated at 0.27% for health workers, 0.7% among surgeons if no special protective measures were taken (Mwanza, Tanzania). A survey of protective equipment in government hospitals in Sierra Leone revealed major deficits (SIHS).
The high prevalence of HIV infection in Sub-Saharan Africa and the lack of access to guidelines and postexposure prophylaxis have led to great concern within the surgical community, particularly at the first-referral health facilities, where health personnel perform life-saving surgical procedures without adequate protection.
The WHO EESC program works to prevent HIV transmission and to increase the overall awareness on the risks involved in the transmission of other blood-borne infectious disease in the surgical workplace (i.e., Hepatitis B and C) by providing guidelines and establishing standard precautions, best practice protocols for clinical procedures safety, and an essential surgical equipment list which includes personal protective equipment.