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Cuts clarification needed. Please explain as specific as possible.

Question: 

Hello,
As I research about HIV blood-borne transmission, I can find it unclear in several issues about CUTS. Please explain below questions (in my order) to help me ease my anxiety:
1. I learned that HIV virus CANNOT be transmitted through "superficial cuts". Well, how can we exactly consider a cut/wound "superficial cuts" ? For example, paper cuts, razor cuts or several-millimeter cuts are "superficial cuts" right?
2. I also learned that HIV need to penetrate DIRECTLY to the bloodstream to infect someone. Please explain me that, in case of very negligible cuts like cuts caused by razor during shaving, they may actually bleed (of course they bleed not much, stop bleeding in seconds, do not require band-aid and never leave scars at all); or even there's no any blood come out from those cuts, they are more likely a "scratch". So can those cuts be "superficial cuts" and impossible to transmit the virus??
3. Again, I learned that a risk would be posed when a SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF CONTAMINATED BLOOD actually exchange with a "OPEN, FRESH and DEEP CUT" which actively bleed that need stitching or prolonged pressure to stop the blood coming out. Please explain me how significant amount of blood is needed to be a risk? (can couples of small blood drops be enough?). how can you define a type of open, fresh and deep cut?
4. Finally, practically, in case I go to a barbershop, the barber shaves my beard and unintentionally cut me a bit (that type of cut is more likely a scratch because it does not visibly bleed). Assumed that the razor is used and have contaminated blood of previous customer that used COUPLE SECONDS before me, can it be a PRACTICAL way to transmit the HIV virus? Please explain. (watch out the assumed time and condition of my cut)

Answer: 

Hello There,

Thank you for posting on the AIDS Vancouver Helpline Forum.

I will address you questions in the order you have presented them.

  1. Yes that is correct. Superficial cuts are cuts that barely are visible on the surface of the skin and is not deep where it is hollow with flesh showing or excessive amounts of blood gushing out of the wound.

  2. Yes these cuts cannot transmit HIV. The reason behind that is because HIV dies upon exposure to air, secondly it needs to have direct access to your bloodstream. By touching blood, no transmission has occur because skin is a great barrier for HIV transmission. There were no confirmed reports of having cuts being a method of transmission except during one knife fight where there was plenty of infected blood that has entered the system of the uninfected individual.

  3. There is no specific amount that I can give you that would be considered significant. However, you need to also be aware of the fact that no matter how much or how little of contaminated blood is present, it still needs to have access to your bloodstream. It also needs not to be exposed to air because HIV is a weak virus and can only live in a controlled environment like the inside of the body and the barrel of a syringe.

  4. No it cannot because there was no direct access to your bloodstream as well as with the contaminated blood being on the razor seconds before you have exposed to it, the HIV virus would have died by then and is not active for transmission.

Hope this helps!

Please let us know if we can provide any more information. Or if you would like to call and speak to someone at the Helpline, you can do so anonymously and confidentially by calling 604-696-4666, Monday-Friday between 10am-4pm.

All the Best,

Reeman

AIDS Vancouver Helpline Volunteer