[Question #367] What looks like blood on a coffee cup by where I would sip

34 months ago

Yesterday, I went to Dunkin Donuts. I bought a coffee and a donut. The coffee was hot, so I waited  like 2 or 3 min before attempting to drink it. I took a bite out of the donut. The donut had sprinkles and some of the sprinkles were red. Anyway, after biting into the donut, I tried to take a sip of coffee but it was so hot it burnt my tongue. I put down the coffee cup and noticed there were little red spots by where my lips would go on the cup. I had no lipstick or makeup on so it couldn't be from that. BTW, the cup was a paper cup not styrofoam. Not sure if that matters. I immeditely assumed the red spots may be from the red sprinkles. Perhaps I had some in my mouth when I tried to drink the coffee or perhaps remnants of spinkles were on my fingers when I opened it to take a drink. Either way, I decided not to drink anymore of the coffee because I started to think in my head that maybe the guy who made the coffee had a papercut and the little red spots were really blood. In since the sprinkles were multicolored, I thought why would only the red ones get on. Worse case scenario, if the spots were blood and the man who made the coffee was indeed HIV positive, what would be my chance of contracting the virus from taking one sip of the coffee by where the blood was? Keep in mind, I think my lips touched where this spot was. I also started to think that maybe the guy purposely put something into my  coffee to spite me because I had him remake the coffee the first time. Please help me! I can't seem to shake the idea that the spot on the cup could have been blood. I showed the cup to my mom and she thinks if the guy bled on it, it would be a darker color, but I just don't know. My lips were also pretty chapped because it was winter. What if the blood from the cup got into my chapped lips? They were two tiny spots. About the size of a comma mark on a keyboard. Do you think I have a risk of contraction and should I get Prep to prevent infection? I'm just so deathly afraid..

H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
34 months ago
Welcome to the forum. The bottom line is that there is no risk of HIV. You needn't be worried at all.

First, it seems extraordinarily unlikely the red spots were blood. Second, if they were, it obviously would be statistically unlikely the person who bled on the donut would be HIV positive. But third and most important, even that wouldn't have been risky. It is difficult to catch HIV by oral exposure to blood or any other body fluid. For example, performing oral sex on an HIV infected man and swallowing semen almost never results in HIV. There would be absolutely no risk of infection from the small amounts of blood you describe. You absolutely should not see post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) -- and I doubt you could find a doctor or clinic willing to prescribe it in this situation.

So no worries, no need for testing, and for sure no need for PEP. Don't worry about it.

Best wishes and happy holidays--  HHH, MD


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34 months ago
Thank you Doctor. I hope you have a happy holiday and happy new year as well. I just have a follow up. Would it matter if the blood were on the cup and I rested my lips on quickly it while I took a sip of coffee? Sorry, I am just so worried. I can't shake this out of my head and I can't stop thinking maybe I had microcuts on my lips. I also called my physician and she told me to forget this and I don't need PEP, but I'm just still so paranoid. I decided to come on this forum because even though I trust my physician and have a close relationship with her, I realize she is not an HIV or STD specialist/expert. I can't stip thinking the barista was being really careless and/or intentionally put blood on my order to spite me for making him remake the coffee because he gave me the wrong order the first time. I live in constant fear of HIV. I was in a marriage and my husband cheated on me with some very questionable people, so I went and got tested last month after a year of celibacy. I did 3 at home tests and 1 blood test with the doctor. I was relieved that they all came back negative. I have decided to live a life of complete celibacy unless I marry again and my future husband is willing to get tested. Now, after this coffee scare, I am super worried again. Just to clarify, aside from dirty needles, is it hard to contract HIV from an object such as food or a cup that has tainted fluids? Is it mostly just caught from human to human direct contact? 
34 months ago
P.S. Sorry for my typos in my last post and sorry if I sound a bit repetitive. I appreciate all your help :) 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
31 months ago
Hello again. I came across this in reviewing older threads to close the ones that are no longer active. Sorry I didn't see this earlier. But your closing comments are exactly right. HIV is not transmitted by intermediaries like food, eating utensils, etc, only by direct, intimate human contact that exchanges blood or body fluids. In any case, I would urge you to be cautious about pledges to be celibate until marriage. Such pledges are very hard for most people to keep, and they can actually reduce sexual safety:  people intending to not be sexually active often are unprepared (e.g. no condoms handy) when temptation arises on short notice.


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