[Question #614] Transmission: HIV/Hepatitis A, B, C

42 months ago
Dear Doctors,

On February 27th around 3:00am I had my finger cut by a soap dispenser in my bathroom. It bled a lot and I stopped it using toilet paper. Late in this day, around 12:00pm I went to a barbecue and I shook hands with 7 men (I cannot conclude nor their sexual status "hetero" / "homosexual" neither their disease status). I wasn't using any bandage on my finger when I shook hands. At the time I shook hands, it was not bleeding, but the cut was apparently open. 

Supporting information: I saw my vaccination records and I saw that I took Hepatitis A/B vaccines in 2011/2012 (3 shots).

My questions are:
1) May I have caught HIV through this exposure?
2) May I have caught Hepatitis A/B/C through this exposure?

Thank you.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
42 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question.

You needn't worry. HIV and viral hepatitis are not transmitted by shaking hands, even if an infected person (or the person shaking his or her hand) has open cuts. It never happens. You cannot catch them unless you have unprotected sex or share drug injection equipment with infected persons. And of course you can't catch hepatitis A or B even if you have such exposures. The vaccines are 100% effective and will protect you for your entire life.

In short, you could not have been infected from thrse events. Don't worry about it.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD

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42 months ago
Dear HHH,
On my first question, I forgot to ask about Syphilis. Is the event described a risk of getting syphilis? 
I read a post in another forum where you said that a person could dip his/her hands with open cuts in contaminated blood and even so he/she would not catch HIV. Can I be 100% sure about the risk of contamination (HIV/Hepatitis/Syphilis) from the event I described?
Thank you. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
42 months ago
There was no risk of syphilis either.

Like many persons, you may assume that STDs are just infections that happen to involve the genitals. That's not the point. The bacteria and viruses that cause STDs evolved to require much more intimate contact for transmission, i.e. exposure to large amounts of virus or bacteria with tissues or in ways that require prolonged or vigorous contact, or the placement of infected fluids well inside the body. If anyh of these infections could be transmitted by hand shaking or other non-sexual contact, they would be a hundred times more common than they are (STDs are actually quite infrequent compared with colds, influenza, infectious diarrhea, skin infections, and so on); and they wouldn't be called sexually transmitted in the first place.

For the rest of your life, all you need do to prevent HIV and other STDs is to not have unprotected sex with potentially infected partners, and not share drug injection equipment with anyone else. That's all. Otherwise there is no chance you'll ever catch any of them.

As for my comment about dipping hands in blood, of course I wouldn't recommend that. That statement was to make a point.

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41 months ago
Dear Dr HHH,
Thank you for all information. 
This is the second time I post my questions here and it's being very enlightening.
Just to summarize all replies and making sure my understanding is clear (sorry, but my English is a little poor). The transmission of HIV/Hepatitis/Syphilis does not happen through the event described (cut finger and shaking hands with unknown persons). 
After your response, you may please close this thread.
thank you. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
41 months ago
You correctly understand. (Your English seems fine to me!)

Take care and stay safe.

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