[Question #1899] Contaminated Surfaces, STD's & HIV transmission

77 months ago

I was at an Adult Bookstore watching one of the movies in the booths masturbating using a lubricant.  Of course I touched the movie selector  and myself etc. After I was finished I returned to my car and cleaned my hands with an anti-bacterial gel, however I touched the can of coffee I was drinking prior to cleaning my hands. I drank the coffee  not thinking much about until later. Then the wheels started turning later that day.

I read that STD's & HIV are not active long once they are exposed to the environment which helps me put my mind at ease a little.

I have the following questions:

Am I at any risk from the events I have described ?

Are Adult Bookstores dangerous from a bacteria and virus perspective (HIV, STD's and other bacteria and viruses) ?

Could I have been exposed by drinking the can of coffee that had an STD or HIV particles transferred by my hand to the can and then my mouth?

I am married which further freaks me out that I could put her at risk ?

Can I have unprotected sex with my wife?

I appreciate any advice you can give me !!!!!!!!

Thank you

H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
77 months ago
Welcome back to the forum. Once in a while, a question provides an opportunity for a blog-like reply that will be useful in responding to future questions. I'm taking that opporunity now.

Nobody has ever been known to have acquired HIV from exposure to an environment contaminated with the virus. Same for other STDs. This includes environments that probably have a high chanced of being soiled with HIV infected secretions or blood, such as adult bookstores, bath houses used for sex, etc. The biological reasons are assumed but not really known in detail. It is said that HIV dies rapidly on exposure to air or when secretions dry, and it's probably true -- but really no careful research has been done on it. Because there have been no cases aquired by exposure to such enviroronments, scientists are not inclinced to spend precious research dollars on it. Most of the comments you can find online about HIV being killed by exposure to air and so on are educated guesses, not proved. In fact, I would guess HIV survives for quite some time, perhaps days, in settings of high humidity or warmth, so that infected fluids stay moist.

Equally important, HIV transmission requires exposure of large amounts of virus -- not just a few surviving virus particles -- to have direct contact with certain types of cells, typically deep inside the body. Superficial contamination of skin, even with nicks or cuts, rarely if ever is sufficient to allow infection to take hold. Finally, even with obvious high risk exposure -- such as HIV infected semen deposited deep inside the vagina -- transmission occurs only an average of once for every 1,000 exposures. In light of that, what could the chance be with the trivial sort of exposure that might occur from touching a contaminated surface?

But the important fact is nobody every shows up in even the busiest HIV/AIDS clinics, or infectious disease practices where HIV care is provided, who did not have the traditional risk factors:  unsafe sex, shared drug injection equipment, birth to an infected mom, etc. Indeed, that observation is what led health experts to advise in the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, before HIV was even discovered, that casual contact or living in the household of an infected person carried no risk. The same applies today in regard to any and all environmental contamination. There have been no reported cases of such infection, including no cases whose only potential exposure was visiting adult bookstores. Therefore, we can safely conclude there is no risk -- or at least so little risk that it can be ignored. The biological reasons -- whether the virus survives for a while on surfaces in such establishments -- doesn't matter. If it doesn't happen, who cares about the biology?

Also, it clearly would be impossible to be suffiently contaminated to carry infected secretions home and infect family members. In addition to bookstores, I will emphasize that household members of HIV infected people NEVER catch the virus (assuming they aren't also sex or needle-sharing partners) despite using the same bathrooms, kitchens, eating utensils, and drinking cups for years and years.

Should you knowingly come into contact with wet blood, semen, etc in such an environment, you should wash your hands afterward. But if you fail to do so, or don't recognize that contamination occurred, you needn't worry. All this applies equally to all other STDs as it does to HIV.

So no worries at all about this sort of exposure; for sure no risk to you or your wife or other family members.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

77 months ago
Dr. Handsfield,

Thank you for your detailed explanation, you have eased my over active imagination of the worst possible outcome. 

More than anything the event has caused me to re-evaluate my behavior (do not go to an Adult Bookstore) and be more considerate of others (my wife).

So bottom-line:

I should have No Concerns regarding unprotected sex with my wife, correct ?
No HIV or STD testing is needed?

Stop the behavior (do not go to an Adult Bookstore, its not worth the stress no matter the level risk) !!!!!!!
Learn for the experience !!!!!
Enjoy a healthy (unprotected) sex life with wife !!!!!!!!

Thank you once again, I hope your answers will put others with a similar experience minds also at ease.

Have a great day, you made mine a whole lot brighter !!!!!!!!!!!

H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
77 months ago
You correctly understand my comments and advice. Since you could not have acquired an infection, your wife is not at risk.

Thanks for the thanks about our services. I too hope that others also will be reassured by this discussion. Best wishes and stay safe.

77 months ago
Dr. Handsfield,

Thank you, best wishes to you also.