[Question #4878] Possible risk?

25 months ago

Hello Doctors,


Over the last couple of years I’ve seemed to have developed an HIV phobia.

My phobia consists of only public needle sticks, and as such I find myself constantly watching where I walk and sit. I live in the SF Bay Area and discarded needless on the streets and public transit has become a real problem. I’m pretty sure that’s where my phobia came from.


Approximately 2 and half weeks ago I went to the movies and as usual I did a quick glance of the seat to make sure I didn’t see anything. The chair is one of those big recliner lazyboy type and at one point during the movie I casually put my hand between seat cushion and the arm rest. Once I did that I convinced myself that I felt something and I had to check when the lights came on. When the lights came on I checked the crack and didn’t see anything, but I also couldn’t see all the way down the crack either. I proceeded to run my hands along to see if I could feel something and I thought I felt something against the back of my hand right above one of my finger nails. I don’t remember it hurting, but I do know it freaked me out. I checked it out when I got home but I don’t recall seeing a wound. By the next day I had convinced myself that I was being unreasonable and I was able to put it out of my mind. Fast forward to a few days ago and I started thinking about it again and I can’t get it out of my mind. I’ve read other needle stick questions on here but I wanted to ask my own. Is this a situation that I should worry about and get tested for? I don’t want to test if I don’t need to, I’m afraid if I do I’ll start using that as an excuse to test every time I feel a scratch or poke in public.

Thankyou


Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
25 months ago
Welcome to the Forum. I'll be glad to comment and hope that it will be helpful to you.  I see no reason for testing related to the activity that you have described.  The important issue here is that you did not sustain a needlestick.  Had you, there would have been a visible puncture which would have drawn visible blood.  Scratches do not transmit HIV.  Please understand that as you continue to replay the event in your head, you will wonder if there was a stick that you missed.  Accept that you did not and move on. 

I hope this comment will be helpful to you.  EWH.  
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25 months ago
Thank you for your reply doctor, your words are reassuring. I also came across an answer you gave to a question where you said .
Your risk for HIV from an incidental needle stick which might occur if you were accidentally stuck on a sidewalk or while walking barefoot on a beach is far, far lower than the 1 in 300 estimate.  I have never seen a person who acquired HIV from an incidental needles stick. I hope these comments will help you to address your phobias.”  And also This one.
On the other hand, in public settings, IF you were stuck with a wayward needle, odds are that he person who had used it do not have HIV- most IV drug users do not have HIV.  Further exposure of the needle and its contents to the environment, as you point out, would reduce/negate infectivity.  Finally, sticks in such setting, when they occur tend to be superficial and DO NOT involve injection of contents, further reducing the risk for infection.
For all of these reasons, as you point out, your risk for infection would be negligible.”
 
This comment and a few similar to it have calmed my fear quite a bit. I also realize that if there was a needle and I had been stuck deep enough, it would probably be something that I would have been pretty noticeable and I would have remembered it. 

 Now I just have to force myself to try and forget about it and also stop searching on the internet. It seems to just fuel my anxiety. 

Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to add and thank you again.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
25 months ago
Your summary statements are correct and my earlier statements abut needlestick exposures are still accurate.  I would add that the event you described was not even a "stick" and did not draw blood..  Time to move on.

In addition, I would encourage you to stay off the internet and you mention.  So much of what is said there is incorrect, taken out of context or out of date.  EWH
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