[Question #1952] HIV survival in needle

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84 months ago
Heya doctors, I noticed my anxiety continuing and I'm now working with a psychiatrist.  Here is my concern and an area I hope you can provide guidance for me. This past December my car was stolen. It was trashed but eventually retrieved. I first saw my retrieved car in late January. Although I was using it, I put off cleaning it (it was full of trash) until February 8th.  My concern is that whomever stole my car may have left a needle in it which then poked me, potentially putting me at risk for HIV. This concern reached a level that I obtained an HIV test on 3/28/17 (HIV-1 p24 and HIV-1/HIV-2 Ab not detected). Yesterday I felt a slight scratch and I worried perhaps it was a needle stick. I then worried perhaps I'd been poked via a needle at some point between my car being stolen and now . So my question is, how long could HIV survive in a needle and be a risk for potential transmission. A couple other pieces of information I think are relevant: after my car was recovered by the police it spent many days in an impound lot. I live in Minnesota and the temperatures were very cold, well below freezing. After I retrieved my car in late January I was parking it in a heated parking garage at night -- so perhaps this temperature variability effects HIV survival. So just to be clear, I was parking my car in my parking garage by early February and I had an HIV test on 3/28. Am I correct in assuming that IF I had been poked by a needle and infected with HIV anytime within or before the first week in February, this would be picked up by my 3/28 HIV test. Further, am I correct that any poke after the first week of February would likely not be a risk because any HIV within a needle would be inactive after having spent more than a week of nights in a heated parking garage. Finally, I assume the temp is above freezing in my parking garage, but if not, does temperature matter for HIV survival?
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H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
84 months ago
Welcome back. But sorry to see these sorts of concerns persist despite the replies you had from Dr. Hook. Although the details of your current concerns are different, the principles he covered, such as HIV survival in the environment, obviously apply in this situation.

Most important, the kind of test you had is conclusive any time 4 weeks or more after the last possible exposure and you were tested about 6-7 weeks after the potential exposure you are concerned about, so that result proves you did not catch HIV.

In addition, I would point out that logic says there was no realistic chance you were exposed anyway. My analysis is 1) the chance is low that whoever stole your car had HIV, 2) there is no particular reason to suppose s/he was an injection drug user, 3) if there were discarded syringies you likely would have found them, 4) I cannot imagine being injured by a needle without it being obvious at the time (especially with sufficient penetraton to inoculate HIV), 5) the time frame makes it unlikely that HIV would have survived in the needle, regardless of the temperature. Finallly, despite the theoretical risks from contact with used drug injection equipment that one reads about, and discussed on websites populated by nervous people, to my knowledge there has never been a single repoted case of HIV from accidental injury with a used needle in the environment.

I hope this has been helpful.

HHH, MD
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84 months ago
Doctor, I misspoke. I first retrieved my car in mid January, about one to two weeks after the car was stolen. I assume this doesn't change your analysis. Thanks.
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H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
84 months ago
Correct -- no change.

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84 months ago
Thanks so much Dr. I feel reassured. I'd like to use my other follow up question now as well. I have a glass dildo in my room at my apartment and there have been individuals coming into my room to do repairs to my ceiling. I know this is a stretch, but if one of these individuals got semen or other secretions on my glass dildo and then I used inserted the glass dildo into my anus during masturbation, is it safe to assume this is no risk because this would be indirect contact and any secretions on the dildo would not be a threat to infect me? Thanks
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H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
84 months ago
Yes, that would be a safe assumption. If any secretions left on the dildo had dried, there would be no risk. (And as you say, this is a stretch. Hard to imagine something like this actually happening.)

This is your second question along the lines of HIV risks from events that everyone knows carry no realistic risk. It may be unnecessary in your case, but here is our standard closing comment and advice in this situation:

Please note that the forum does not permit repeated questions on the same topic or exposure. This will have to be your last one; future questions on this topic or about this exposure will be deleted without reply and without refund of the posting fee. This policy is based on compassion, not criticism, and is designed to reduce the temptation to keep paying for questions with obvious answers. In addition, experience shows that continued answers tend to prolong users’ anxieties, when professional counseling often would be a better approach. Finally, repeat or anxiety driven questions have little educational value for other users, one of the forum’s main purposes. Thank you for your understanding.    

Best wishes and stay safe.
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