[Question #5245] Eye exposure.

23 months ago
Dear doctor,

Day before yesterday i was at Starbucks to get coffee. The lady in front of me had too many rashes on leg it was quite noticeable.. I ordered and went to collect my coffee.. she was standing with her hand on the desk where u can collect coffee. After she left i kept my hand (palm) on the desk and the next moment I started rubbing my left eye(it’s conjunctivitis)with the same hand.  while leaving I recollected her rashes.. Assuming her hand too had rashes and it bleed on the desk where i kept my hand again and rubbed the eye by same hand .  WILL IT POSE ANY SORT OF HIV RISK??.. i am anxious person from last few months i am not involved into any sexual activity. My last HIV Test is negative too.. should i be worried over this incident? Eyes is considered to be mucus membrane.  There was one incident which i read at hospital one technician was infected through blood went to eye.  Kindly advise.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
23 months ago
Welcome back, but I'm sorry you found it necessary. Although your previous question was about a more direct potential exposure -- at least sex was involved that time. But if you read and understood that reply, you should understand that something like this is risk free. HIV simply is not transmitted by such indirect contact. Also, saliva is the only potential body substance from the Starbucks worker that could have been on her fingers, the counter top, etc -- and saliva never transmits HIV. But there would be nor risk if, for example, she had blood or vaginal fluids on her hands. And anyway, the vast majority of people don't have HIV anyway.

Your three questions to date, taken together, suggest you are more than simply anxious about HIV, but probably are germophobic. Do you find yourself worried a lot about being nonsexually exposed to HIV or other germs? Is it affecting your daily life and happiness? If so, I suggest you seek professional counseling about it. Such thoughts can be an early sign of serious mental health disability. (For an excellent example where it can lead, see "The Aviator", the film biography of the industrialist Howard Hughes -- and a great movie, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett.) I suggest counseling from compassion, not criticism.

So for sure you should not be tested foe anything on account of the event at Starbucks and should not be at all worried about it.

Please note the forum does not permit repeated questions on the same topic or exposure. This will have to be your last one; future new questions about HIV exposures other than sex or injection drug use will receive no reply and the posting fee will not be refunded. This policy is based on compassion, not criticism, and to reduce temptations to keep paying for questions with obvious answers. In addition, experience shows that continued answers tend to prolong users' anxieties rather than reducing them. Finally, such questions have little educational value for other users, one of the forum's main purposes. Thanks for your understanding. 

HHH, MD
---
23 months ago
Dear sir,

Thanks for your revert! But sir my question was little different.  I had a pink eye and if the blood( not salavia) was over the counter and if rubbed with the same hand to the pink eye, will it pose risk? Because eye is mucus membranes.

I will definitely take ur advice and will seek some mental help.  

This is my last question and will accept your answer as final sir. I respect you and dr hook alot for your service over decades.... your answer matters alot.


H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
23 months ago
Over the 3 decades of the known worldwide HIV epidemic, nobody has ever caught HIV from non-sexual contact with other persons. Every person seen in the busiest HIV/AIDS clinics has a history of sex, direct blood contact through shared drug injection equipment, or other known high risk interactions with infected persons. "Exposures" like this must have occurred billions of times around the world, and yet nobody with HIV/AIDS lacks evidence of direct high risk exposures. (When they say they are unaware of such exposures, it always turns out they were wrong, i.e. had high risk exposures of some kind.)

Here's another general comment about indirect exposures to blood:

We in the health professions have done a poor job in educating the public about health risks from blood exposures. At one time there was a very casual attitude:  doctors didn’t care much if blood got on our hands or clothing (aside from appearances), and most of the public had the same perspective. Who cared if they contacted blood while helping a child or a friend with a cut, or assisting at an accident scene? That attitude, we now know, was too cavalier: we paid too little attention to known risks and didn’t even know about others. However, I think public health messaging, and public attitudes, have gone too far the other way. Virtually any blood contact is often described as risky, and many people now are inappropriately frightened about contacting blood either directly from bleeding persons or in the environment. The fact is that the risks of HIV, hepatitis B or C, or other blood-borne infections from such events are very low. Few if any persons have ever acquired these infections except by direct blood exchange, e.g. from transfusions (before infection testing prevented them), shared needles, or sexual contact. There certainly is no significant risk from exposure to blood on contaminated surfaces or personal items used by bleeding persons, especially if the blood has dried. Even wet blood in the mouth or eyes carries only theoretical risk of HIV transmission, with no cases ever known; the same probably is true of hepatitis B and C. If you physically come into contact with obvious or apparent wet blood, it’s common sense to try to avoid touching the mouth or eyes, and to wash with soap and water. But such events never require testing for HIV or hepatitis.


So don't overthink it. You're not going to be the world's first such case.
---
23 months ago
Thanks very much sir for hearing patiently even queries like mine.  Thanks very much for your services and knowledge provided sir.  You and dr hook are really awesome. Angels for people like me. May God always bless you.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
23 months ago
I'm glad to have helped. But please adhere to the policy described in the closing paragraph of my first reply above.

Take care and stay safe.
---