[Question #4973] STI Risk

25 months ago
I'm a 26 year old female. I have never been sexually active. I recently visited a hospital for some lab tests. I needed to give a urine sample for one test. While I getting up, a few strands of my hair touched the nearby bin. I checked the bin but its contents were just dry waste. Since this happened in a common public restroom at the hospital, I'm worried if this is a significant event for risk of acquiring STIs or any other blood borne infections especially HIV. Please do advise me what should i do next.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
25 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your confidence in our services.

Bottom line: There is absolutely no chance of catching any STD on account of the events you described. A historic teenage-type joke among STD specialists is the patient who asks "Doctor, can I catch an STD on a toilet seat?" "Yes, but that's an awfully uncomfortable place to have sex."

You seem to have a common misunderstanding about STDs -- that because they involve the genitals and other body cavities, that any contact with those areas, or fluids from them, can easily trannsmit the infection. Not true:  the bacteria and viruses that cause them evolved to require sex itself, or at least massive exposure to infected fluids, for transmission to occur. They're called sexually transmitted for good reason! In distant past years, before medical science had all the answers -- e.g. that STDs can be asynmptomatic, or transmitted a long time after catching them -- there were beliefs about transmission from contaminated toilets, towels, and so on. But those stories all came about as face-saving excuses when in fact all STDs are only acquired by sex. Nobody ever gets any STD other than by sex. Of course there are exceptions, as when babies are infected in the uterus or during vaginal delivery. But no exceptions in adults.

"What should I do next?" Absolutely nothing. No worries and definitely do not seek testing for HIV or any other STD. If and when you become sexually active, choose your partner(s) wisely and use condoms until sure s/he isn't infected with anything. Otherwise you'll never be at risk for HIV or other STDs.

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

HHH, MD
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25 months ago
thank you so much for your response Dr. Handsfield. This remains true even if we assume that there could be infected body fluids on the dustbin and it might have come on my body? I was just grossed out from the incident. And as you said HIV could happen only with Sex and from infected mother, so as precautionary measures, only having sex with non-infected partners & using condoms is enough to stay non-infected? Is there anything else that i should follow?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
25 months ago
Yes, it remains true -- which you seem to understand from my description above. Getting small amounts of blood, feces, or other body fluids and goo on the hands, and even then contacting the mouth, eyes, genitals, etc, rarely if ever transmits STDs. If this could happen, there would be at least occasional patients in STD clinics with no sexual risks -- but we never, ever see such patients. Your statement "only having sex with non-infected partners & using condoms is enough to stay non-infected?" is correct; in fact, you have restated my own comment ("If and when...), just using different words.

Don't confuse being grossed out by coming into contact with other persons' body substances with HIV/STD risk. They aren't the same! There is nothing else you need to know, except (as I also said above) no drug use with shared needles.

Got it?
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25 months ago
Thank you for your response Doc. :) . 
What all forms of sexual activities are a potential risk factor? Only Vaginal and Anal Sex? Or Kissing and Oral Sex as well? ( Asking because I have bleeding gums, every day in the morning, quite some blood comes out while brushing my teeth ) . Can this be of risk if I kiss or have oral sex with anybody that might have HIV?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
25 months ago
The main risk for most STDs is vaginal or anal sex. Oral sex is inherenetly much lower risk for all STDs and nearly zero for some, including HIV and chlamydia. Kissing is no risk; there have been only a few cases of proved HIV transmission by kissing (among billions and billions of kisses between infected and uninfected persons).

That completes the two follow-up comments and replies included with each question and so concludes this thread. I hope the discussion has been helpful.
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