[Question #4284] HIV exposure related questions

29 months ago
Thanks for taking my question. There are a few situations that I am worried about HIV / STD exposure and hence need your expert opinion.

  1.  Most important question - 6 weeks before, my wife had acupuncture treatment. Roughly 5.5 weeks after this incident, my wife developed a sore throat, coughing, etc. There was no fever / rash.

I do not remember seeing any blood on the pins used for acupuncture and my wife also did not bleed after the pins were taken out. 5-6 pins were placed in navel area. I am worried about accidental pin re-use as this was a crowded clinic in India and the Doctor serving 3-4 patients at the same time.

Is this a potential risk by any chance? I am worried whether the symptoms are of HIV ARS. Please let me know. Does this need testing?


  1.  When I ate a Sandwich, I saw something that looked like little blood. While it was not dripping, it was in a very small area – probably 1/6th of a Penny. I ate it and then started thinking about it.I have some cheek-bites and mild bleeding due to that. Around that time, I had a lip bite injury as well that was a little deep ( but was healing as it was about 2-3 days old).  Is this a HIV risk?


  1.  We were in a restaurant in India and food is served on a banana leaf. While I was cleaning it with water, some water splashed in to eye. While I did not see any visible blood on the banana leaf, is there even slightest risk of HIV from this? I am a little worried about this.


  1.  Similarly, in Hindu temples ( place of worship), they offer little powder and a semi-liquid that we apply to our forehead ( similar to ash Wednesday). I cleaned it up 2 hours later and some went into my eye. Is there any risk if someone’s blood had accidentally mixed into it? I am worried if someone’s hand had a cut and if their blood got into the bowl when they took it. Is there any HIV risk from this?


  1.  Lastly, I have very dry and chapped hands and they sometimes bleed a little. This makes me nervous to shake hands with the fear that if the other person has some bleeding, it may get into my chapped areas. Is this something that I should worry about? I assume there is no HIV risk from this.

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
29 months ago
Welcome to our Forum.  I'll do my best to help.  Before I address your specific questions I would like to suggest that they suggest a degree of confusion of how HIV is transmitted.  Thus, by way of background, HIV is transmitted from person to person only through direct, unprotected sexual contact or through injection of infected material deep into tissue.  It is not transmitted through casual contract with infected persons or indirect means.  Thus, to preview the explanations I am about to provide, none of the events you describe below suggest any risk for HIV.  Even when exposed in the manners indicated above, fewer than 1% of persons exposed to infected persons become infected.  I see nothing for you to worry about related to the events you describe above.   As for your specific questions:

1.  When HIV is transmitted through used needles, the needles are hollow needles in which blood can be transferred from person to person.  Acupuncture needles are solid and therefor not associated with risk for infection.  Further, most acupuncturists take precautions to make sure their needles are changed between patients.  I would not worry about this event.  Further, an isolated sore throat and cough does not suggest HIV. the signs of a recently acquired HIV infection include a high fever, severe sore throat and muscle and/or joint aches among other symptoms. 

2.  Ingestion of blood contaminating food is not a risk for HIV.  This is true even if you have an open sore or cut on your cheek or within your mouth.

3.  A splash of this sort is not a risk for HIV.  HIV has been acquired in laboratories when blood or blood products from infected persons have been directly splashed in the eye but this sort of exposure is a no risk event. 

4.  Direct exposure to something which had been previously contaminated with the blood of an infected person in the way you describe is a no risk event. 

5.  Open cuts, scratches and chapping of your hands is not a risk for HIV, even with direct exposure.

Thus to summarize, not of the potential exposures or events you describe suggest any risk for infection. There is no medical need for testing related to them.  I hope that this information and comments is helpful to you. EWH
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29 months ago
Sir - Thanks much for the detailed responses. A few clarification questions please. I was more worried about acupuncture risk and the eye exposures.

1. Regarding Acupuncture, I assume there has to be visible blood for any meaningful exposure. I do not remember seeing visible blood. Can I safely assume this is " Absolutely No Risk" and move on.

2. Regarding Restaurant splash - Again, I did not see any visible blood. This combined with the fact that there was air and water exposure, can I safely assume that even if little blood was there, it would have become non-infectious?

3. Regarding eye exposure from the temple, it was again exposed to air for 2 hours or so as it was in my forehead. Again,  Can I safely assume that even if little blood was there, it would have become non-infectious?

4. Curious question - How soon does little blood become non-infectious once it is exposed to air? Same question for water as well?

Thanks much for your time and help in this regard.


29 months ago
1 more question on syringe reuse. Whenever I go for Blood draw, I quickly check and make sure the syringe comes out of a new packet. Sometimes, it is opened elsewhere and brought to me and I check it visually once to make sure it is clean. 

What is the best way to ensure the syringe is clean? Does visually checking it and pumping it inside and out a couple of times ensure it is clean? I am assuming if by mistake it is a reused syringe., this action will pump out any blood left and I will use a different one. My question is this - can any blood be left inside in the bore even I after I pump it inside and out and if so, is that enough to cause an infection? While I understand syringes may not be reused, I would like to know if all blood comes out through this action. Please let me know. Thanks again for your time and help in this regard. 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
29 months ago
Your follow-up questions are repetitive.  The answers will not change.

1.  Yes, I would assume no risk and move on.
2.  Again, there was no risk to the splash that you describe.
3.  Correct
4.  The virus is delicate.  Lower temperatures, drying and pure water all kill the virus.

Regarding syringes.  You need to trust your facility to use clean syringes and not be paranoid that they would re-use syringes.  EWH
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29 months ago
Thanks sir. I was only worried about accidental syringe reuse. Will pumping it inside and out clear all the blood (or) will it leave enough invisible blood inside to cause an infection? Thanks much sir. This is the last question 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
29 months ago
I'm sorry, this sort of paranoid, fear-based "what if" question is impossible to answer.  There are no data on "visible"" vs "invisible" blood.  There are also  no data on how to clear a syringe and laboratories go through VERY RIGOROUS training and steps to make sure that this does not occur.  If you REALLY think the lab you go to is re-using syringes, you shouldn't use them. 
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Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
29 months ago
There have been three repli4s to this thread. The thread is being closed as per Forum guidelines.  EWH
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