[Question #1893] Nonsexual exposure risk?

43 months ago
Hello doctors,

I work at a mental health clinic in which some of the staff of immigrants from Africa.  A woman from Africa I work with cut her hand slightly today while we were eating lunch. I did not see any blood but I may simply not have noticed. I often pick my nose//rub my eyes/have hang nails and I'm worried about blood from her cut getting into my body via nose/eyes/small scrapes or something like that. If I was exposed to blood in this way, is this still not a risk and not a reason to get tested? I'm concerned because I know Africa has a higher HIV rate. I'm embarrassed to ask her if she has been tested for HIV.

thanks
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
43 months ago
Welcome to our forum.  I'll be glad to comment.  the event you describe was a no risk event.  while the prevalence of HIV is higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in many countries, most people from Africa do not have HIV.  Even if the woman you describe did have HIV, HIV becomes non-infectious quickly on exposure to the air and contact of HIV infected material though skin, hangnails or by picking your nose would not lead to infection.  This was a no risk event, not matter whether she had HIV or not.  I would not worry and thee is no reason to even consider testing.

I hope this comment is helpful. EWH
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43 months ago
Thanks so much for your reply Doc.

Is it right that contact with potentially HIV infected blood through my eyes or mouth is also not a risk in general or in the specific situation I mentioned in my first question? In fact, can I count on being safe from HIV in all situations, even when coworkers get cuts or bleed, as long as I don't have a deep, bleeding wound that gets coworker blood in it [or have unprotected sex!!] I just want to not feel unsafe around my coworkers.

Thank you thank you
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
43 months ago
Correct, casual contact of the sort you describe in general does not lead to infection.  HIV  transmission only occurs during penetrative sexual contact or injection of infected material deep into tissue with a hollow needle.   No need to worry about HIV acquisition in the work environment unless your work involved possible contaminated needle sticks or sexual contact.  EWH
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43 months ago
Hello doctor,

Thanks for your advice. It made me feel better. However, I've actually found my mind nervous about other possible exposures now. I'm planning to meet with my local doctor to talk about this more. In the mean time, I was hoping you could answer a general question for me.

My roommate sometimes has guests over when I'm not there. I'm worried some of those guests may have used my razor, toothbrush, electric nose hair trimmer when I was not home. Of course, if I had used my toothbrush, razor, electric nose hair trimmer, it would not have been immediately after someone else (I mean it would not be as if they handed me the item and I then used it). I just wanted to make sure if someone did use one of these items (or any other item in my bathroom//kitchen//room) that this does not warrant testing or any concern on my part, even if I have bleeding gums or nose bleeds or sometimes cut myself while shaving.

Thanks for your help
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
43 months ago
Some of the activities you describe- specifically sharing of toothbrushes and razors are specifically recommended against in many HIV prevention guidelines. These recommendations typically presume that the sharing of such instruments occurs immediately between and infected and non-infected person.  Logically after exposure to the air, any HIV present would be non-infectious and not a concern.  I am not aware of any proven infections which were transmitted by sharing or toothbrushes, razors, or other personal hygiene equipment and would not worry about it. 

I hope my replies have been helpful. This is my third reply to your questions and therefore, as per Forum Guidelines, there will be nor further replies and this thread will be close in a few hours.  I wish you well.  EWH
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