[Question #2605] HIV Risk Assessment

43 months ago
Good morning Doc. I'm a healthy person. I'd like to share what happened today with you. I woke up and went to brush my teeth. But I noticed that someone had already used my toothbrush, because it was wet. I had a party last night and dont exactly know who might have, and what would be their HIV status. Have I put myself at risk of contracting the infection? I do get occasional bleeding gums. I'm scared if the person who used my brush might have left tiny droplets of blood and i might have had a few bleeding points on my gums. It could have been fresh as the toothbrush was when I picked it up to use. Please give me your advice.

H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
43 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question.

There has never been a reported (or to my knowledge, even suspected) case of HIV transmission through shared toothbrishes. Any risk is theoretical only. In general, oral secretions don't transmit HIV, even if blood is present in the mouth. For example, there are no known cases of HIV transmission by oral sex (mouth to genital) or by kissing. Among other things, saliva kills HIV.

So my advice is to not worry about this at all, to not be tested, and to go on with your life without worry.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD

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43 months ago
Phew. That eased me out completely. Thank you for the detailed explanation. However, I do have a few questions for self-awareness (  as all the sites online have contradictory content )
1. For how long does HIV and HPV live outside the body? 
2.i know it doesnt spread other than through body fluids and sharing needles, but if there were to be sources other than these, what could they be?
3. I've a submandibular lymph node of around 1-1.5 cms, noticed it before a month with no history of recent infections, saw an ent specialist for the same. He said it could have been from past infection of head, face or  neck. But I read somewhere that these reactive lymph nodes should go back to normal in 2 weeks of infection. So I went back to him ( I believe it's better to be safe than to be sorry later)  , he barely examined it and told me not to worry with no further explanations. What do you think?  Should i go see another doctor? I dont have any other symptoms. I know it's not related to HIV infection, but I just wanna know you opinion. As I strongly put my faith in your advice and your opinions are either re-assuring or motivating to go ahead for the right investigation. 
Thank you for all that you do.  

H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
43 months ago
1) This really is the wrong question. Survival outside the body isn't really the issue:  If such transmissions are so rare that no cases are known, the biological reason's don't matter much (except for intellectual curiosity). The answer is that survival of HIV is measured in hours, or immediately when the contamined fluid dries out. HPV maybe longer but this has not been studied and there are no data to know with confidence.

2) There are no sources other than direct sharing of blood and some (not all) body fluids. Even hypothetical environmental exposures still would have to involved infected human blood or fluids.

3) A single enlarged lymph node, or several nodes in a localized area (under the jaw, in the neck, an armpit, etc) is almost never due to HIV, as you apparently already know. And a clinically important node, submandibular or elsewhere, generally will be tender and/or will progressively enlarge over time. Return to your doctor if you remain concerned, but from what you say here, I doubt this is anything to worry about.

Thanks for the thanks about our services. I'm glad to have helped.
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