[Question #3690] Is this possible?

36 months ago
Hello doctors.

This may be a bit of a silly question, but I really don't much about HIV other than the basic info I've been taught. 

So, I frequently volunteer my time to helping older folks do household chores and whatnot. Today I was helping an older gentleman carry some groceries and boxes into his house. After we were finished carrying everything in I noticed the he was bleeding everywhere from a cut on his hand. I didn't;t see any blood on my hands or my fingers, but I knew that I touched his hands in the process of helping him as he was handing me things to carry.

Does this situation put me at risk IF he were to be infected with HIV. Also, would the fact that the blood was still somewhat fresh on his hands, would that make the virus more likely to be alive and thus more transmissible? Normally, I would have just brushed this off, but I do bite and pick at my nails, so I'm worried that I may have made an easier route for tranmission as I sometimes pick at my fingers subconsciously until the point of bleeding. 

I feel like I'm not at a huge risk and I believe it would be unlikely for this gentleman to have HIV, but you can't judge a book by it's cover and it would just make me feel better to have an experts opinion.

Also, thank you for being such a reliable source! 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
36 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question, which is reasonable and articulate.

Blood contact with intact skin (i.e. without visible, overt bleeding cuts) is no risk for HIV. While it is reasonable to avoid such blood contact, the actual risk of such events is zero or close to it. Fresh blood indeed would be higher risk than older or drying blood -- but still not a significant risk. That you might have superficial cuts or nicks on the skin -- e.g. from nail biting -- does not significantly elevate the risk. Further, as you suggest yourself, it is "unlikely for this gentleman to have HIV" -- but even if he did, you really needn't worry. As a physician in clinical practice for 4 decades, I have personally, repeatedly had such exposures to other persons' blood, including blood from persons known to be at high risk for HIV. it never occurred to me to be tested or worries, and I encourage you to disregard this event and not worry at all about it.

Thanks for the kind words about our services. I hope this advice has met your expectations. But let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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36 months ago
Thank you for your response and your kind words as well! 

After your response, I do feel a lot better. I believe that most of my skin was intact on my hands. I had some splits in my cuticles and some healing skin, but I think that falls under the category of superficial nicks, so I’m not to worried about those. 

I think this answers my concerns, thanks for the reassurance doctor. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
36 months ago
My reply would be the same even if you had nicks or cuts on your hands that were exposed to the blood.

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