[Question #5695] HIV virus

21 months ago
Good day Doctor Hook, 
I hope this finds you doing well. I’m really in need for reassurance. I fingered a girl and got her genital secretions on my hand. Two questions:
1- 10 seconds passed before I scratched my eyes with the hand that had some genital secretions, is 10 seconds enough for the virus to become non-infectious at room temperature?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
21 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your confidence in our services. Users do not select the moderator who responds to particular questions. Dr. Hook's and my expertise are identical and our advice always pretty much the same, even if our online styles are somewhat different. We have been close colleagues for nearly 40 years.

The two primary answers to your question are: 1) 10 seconds almost certainly is not enough time for HIV to become non-infective. 2) It doesn't matter.

Nobody in the world has ever been known to acquire HIV by hand-genital contact, regardless of subsequent rapid contact with the eyes. Even direct exposure of the eyes carries little risk. Without unprotected penile-vaginal or -anal intercourse, HIV is not sexually transmitted. Since it doesn't happen, the biological reasons -- such as survival of HIV -- are irrelevant. Even though you can find lots of statements online about HIV survival outside the body, there has been little research on it, because all evidence suggests it doesn't matter. (In addition, nobody ever gets HIV because of environmental contamination with infected blood or body fluids.) Finally, I'll point out that even among the most sexually active women in the US, including commercial sex workers, on average under 1 in a thousand has HIV -- so the chance your fingering partner has HIV is very low. The chance is even lower if she is also a student where you are (based on your email address) or one of its several nearby schools.

So no worries, no need for testing.

I hope these comments are helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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20 months ago
Good day doctor, 

I hope this message finds you doing very well. I have a quick question: I discovered a little bit of blood on my right hand yesterday. and then I scratched my eyes. I also read somewhere that you said hands and fingers can't carry enough virus or bacteria. Does that mean--if no blood was splashed into my eyes--that there is no risk, because my hands or fingers can't carry enough bacteria or virus of hiv? 
Note: the blood could have come from the environment, but it no blood was splashed into my eyes (because I read somewhere that this is the only way that blood can be transmitted through the eyes) You have always been helpful doctor so thank you so much!!
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
20 months ago
In theory, such an exposure probably could transmit HIV, if the blood was wet and from an HIV infected person. However, even the busiest HIV/AIDS clinics never have patients without the known, traditional exposures:  unprotected sex, needle sharing, etc with infected partners. There is a total absence of people whose only possible exposures were from a contaminated environment. For example, although you can find a lot of internet stuff about exposure to used needles (stepping on a discarded syringe, for example), there are no reported cases that it actually happened. Given the millions of HIV infected persons worldwide over more than 40 years, hundreds of thousands (millions?) must have left infected blood, body fluids, or needles in public toilets, parks, on doorknobs, etc. But nobody gets infected by such exposures. Similarly, the household members of HIV never catch the virus, if they are not also sex or needle sharing partners, even after years of sharing the same toilets, kitchens, eating utensils, etc -- and cleaning up each other's blood or body fluids.

This sort of analysis is exactly why public health and infectious diseases experts were able to advise the world at large, in the earliest days of the recognized HIV/AIDS epidemic -- even before the cause was known and the virus identified -- that non-intimate contact is risk free. It is a mistake to read about theoretically possible exposure events and conclude that actual risk exists.

In other words, if you don't have unprotected sex or share drug injection equipment with another person, you never have to worry about HIV. Period, full stop, end of discussion.  OK?
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20 months ago
Thanks for the reply doctor. But the blood was so little. you said that hands and fingers CAN'T  carry enough virus orr bacteria. is that still true in my case?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
20 months ago
That's not quite true. As I said, in theory such an exposure could transmit HIV. The small amount of blood probably markedly reduces an already impossibly small risk. But maybe not to zero. That said, the chance you caught HIV is in the same range as the odds you'll be struck by a meterorite, i.e. zero for all practical purposes. Forget it and do not have an HIV test.

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