At the end of 2008, an estimated 1,178,350 adults and adolescents in the United States were infected with HIV, including 236,400 whose infections had not been diagnosed.1 In Tennessee alone, in 2009, there were 15,715 individuals with diagnosed HIV infections.2 Approximately 50% of people with HIV infection have pets,3,4 yet the role of companion animals in the lives of people with HIV infection or AIDS has received little attention in the peer-reviewed literature. Pet ownership has been reported to lessen depression,5 and cat ownership has been shown to protect against loneliness6 in men with AIDS. However, animals are involved in the epidemiology of several opportunistic infections of HIV-infected persons and many HIV comorbidities that signal the onset of AIDS.7 As a result, animal contact may pose particular risks for people with HIV infection or AIDS. Zoonoses of concern for people with HIV infection or AIDS include the following: Bartonella spp, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Campylobacter spp, Cryptococcus spp, Cryptosporidium spp, dermatophytes, Giardia spp, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium spp, Rhodococcus equi, Salmonella spp, and Toxoplasma gondii.7–12
The degree to which animals may contribute to zoonoses transmission to people with HIV infection or AIDS varies,7 yet a high proportion of immunocompromised pet owners have been advised to surrender their pets.13 The prevalence of pet ownership among people with HIV infection or AIDS and the benefits of pet ownership and companionship to this population require that health-care providers offer factual information and appropriate disease prevention strategies. The purpose of the study reported here was to examine the practices, attitudes, and knowledge of Tennessee veterinarians and physicians regarding the risk for and prevention of zoonoses among companion animal owners with HIV infection or AIDS. Similar studies14,15 have been performed to assess the role of veterinarians and physicians in preventing zoonoses in immunocompromised individuals. However, neither of the previous studies14,15 focused specifically on zoonoses prevention in people with HIV infection or AIDS.
Survey instruments available by request from the corresponding author.
Stata, version 11, StataCorp LP, College Station, Tex.
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