[Question #1392] HIV OCD and worry

50 months ago
Hello Drs, first I want to say I have OCD and I have a irrational fear of hiv. I'm in a monogamous relationship and I don't do drugs. I ve been bothered by 2 events. I'm a fire marshal and was working at a haunted house where a 15yr old fell and hit his head, he was bleeding, I put gloves on and called a ambulance. I didn't touch him where he was bleeding just his leg to get him to lay still. It was a real quick don't move touch with my gloved hand. He has sweatpants on and I didn't see any blood. The ambulance came and I left! I took my gloves off inside out and didn't see anything on my hands. I did have a 3 day old small paper cut on my palm. And I start to worry what if his blood got on the paper cut! I asked the kid if he had any medical conditions or was on meds and he said no. I then donated blood 18 days after this! 4 gallons.  Then last week I had to go to a call for a e-cigarette exploding. A person had a e-cig explode and knock his front teeth out. the device shot away and was on fire. I got there 10-12 min later and a coworker who didn't touch the person put the still warm device into a latex glove and then into a plastic Walmart bag and he handed the bag to me. I took the bag with my bare hand and placed it in my trunk! I didn't see any blood on the bag or on the device. I looked several times. I also didn't have any cuts or scrapes on my hand at the time. Yet I can't sleep worrying what if there was blood on the plastic bag! I asked my coworker and he said it was a clean bag and he didn't touch the patient! Just picked up the device as evidence. Please help me with this! Do I have any risk or worry!!! I hate being this way and it's causing stress in my marriage! I know it's irrational. I want to stop my worry and enjoy my life! Thank you  for your valuable time! Best regards.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
50 months ago

Welcome to the Forum.  I'll try to help by providing some facts and my assessment but given your occupation, I anticipate that you are regularly in situations which might lead to the sort of concerns you have described above.  With this in mind, I would urge you to actively work through this with a professional counselor.  I am sure your fire department has resources to help this happen and if you do not, I anticipate that you will have similar concerns in the future.  Further, such concerns might negative impact your ability to do your job in the fashion that I sense you want to do.  Talk to someone!

Now for the facts.  HIV is a surprisingly fragile virus that dies quickly on exposure to the environment and is not transferred effectively from person to person on individuals hands or on inanimate objects, including both material ( i.e. clothing) or on hard objects (counter tops, etc.  Further, in the general populations the prevalence of HIV is very, very low- certainly far below 1% in most 15 year olds,  (Hard to guess about the smoker).  In addition, everything you describe involved gloves or the plastic bag containing the exploded e-cigarette), protecting you form direct exposure.  Finally, even if the paper cut was exposed directly to blood containing HIV, there are NO instances in which exposures such as touching a paper cut with blood from an infected person has led to infection.

Bottom line, what you describe were two no risk events.  If you want my advice about testing, I am confident that there is no medical reason for any HIV testing at all related to the two events that you describe.  If you choose to test, I can assure you that your tests will show that you were not infected by the two events you describe.

I hope these comments are helpful.  Thank you for your service to your community.  EWH

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50 months ago
Thank you Dr Hook! I know I have a irrational fear and I'm talking with a counselor and I'm on zoloft 200 mg. I ve been dealing with this for 15 years now ever since a pt I was bagging in the back of a ambulance bled on me and I had a scratch. They tested him. And everything was ok! But it changed me forever! Worrying. About my wife and kids.  I thank you for your time! I looked at the plastic bag so much it's rediculous there wasn't anything on it and I didn't have any cuts to my bare hand.The paper cut wasn't even really a cut! My wife looked at it and said that's not a cut and I didn't touch the kid! My mind just starts working over and over! I took a promotion to the fire marshals office so I didn't have to do medical calls anymore.but had these two incidents. Or non incidents! Is it true that if I don't have unsafe sex with people or share drug works, I'll never have to worry about Hiv? Thank you for your help! Best regards.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
50 months ago

I feel for your concerns and wish you the best.  Glad I could confidently tell you that there was no risk to you from the events you describe.

Again, thank you for the work that you do.  Stay safe.  EWH

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50 months ago
Hi Dr Hook, Is it safe to have unprotected sex with my wife? What can I do to stop my OCD worrying about catching hiv? Thank you for all you do! I know this is my last ? For you
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
50 months ago

Yes, there is no reason whatsoever related to the events you describe to worry about unprotected sex with your wife.

As for your OCD, the only effective approach is counseling with the services of a professional (and confidential) counselor. 

I hope my comments are helpful.  Take care.  EWH

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