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Cuts at Nail Salon, HIV Transmission Risk?

Question: 

Hello:
This past weekend I was getting a pedicure and the woman cut me. I did bleed. I didn't think much of it she had gloves on. She used a antiseptic to stop the bleeding but then she also used a brush that she later used to clean up the polish on my skin. She used it in the same polish remover container that she continues to use and then put the brush back on her cart. So I am now worried that she just reuses the equipment without sterilizing it.

Now I know it's a not likely but is there a chance to catch HIV this way? If she used the brush on someone else's blood and then applied that same brush to my cut? Or would HIV be present in polish remover since she is using the same brush you used to clean up my blood?

I am breastfeeding my 4 month old and I am terrified I may have been exposed so I have stopped breastfeeding her. I know it may sound a bit crazy but I am seriously worried that this can happen as I read a woman got infected using the same manicure equipment as a relative with HIV.

Answer: 

Hello,

Thank you for your inquiry. From what we gather from the question, you were asking about the risk of acquiring HIV from receiving a pedicure at a nail salon, during which you experienced a cut that bled.

The possibility of HIV transmission requires contact of an HIV-containing fluid, such as blood, directly to your bloodstream, typically accompanied by an activity with measurable risk, such as unprotected sex or sharing needles. There has been one documented case of a woman acquiring HIV by directly sharing manicure equipment with her cousin, who is HIV positive and was not virally suppressed at the time of transmission (1,2). It is important to note that this particular case is an extremely rare event and did not occur at a salon (3).

The following is provided to address your concerns about the sterility of the equipment at the salon. In terms of the brush, HIV does not survive long outside of the human body on surfaces and is thus rendered inactive (4). In terms of the polish remover, HIV is very sensitive to certain chemicals and would likely not survive in the polish remover for an extended period of time (5). To further ease your stress it may be of use to ask the salon or nail technician if they sterilize the equipment after each use.

Recommendation: Refer to a physician for health-related questions.

Regards,

AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online, Marie