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Exposure incident

Question: 

Hi i'm depressed about this situation.I was on holiday in Singapore last December and i went to orchard tower(nickname "Four Floors of ******") one day to have a look.when i was walking through the building,one sex worker came from side of me and touched middle of my arm(below biceps).I drag my hand off her and manage to go pass her but i felt prick pain where she touch me.it was just a 4 secs episode. I checked my hand that moment and didn't notice any bleeding or scratch marks.so i went away without checking her hands.7 weeks has passed since the incident,but now i have very bitter taste in my tongue and soreness in roof of mouth for last 6 days.I never had any thing like this before in my mouth.I'm 34 now.now i'm thinking what if this girl pricked me with a HIV infected syringe.I desperately need help now...

(1)any chance it could be symptoms of ARS
(2)did I got pricked by a syringe.
(3)do i need to get tested for Hiv

I don't have any other hiv related symptoms at the moment

please help me.I'm having high anxiety because of this incident.

Answer: 

Thank you for contacting AIDS Vancouver with your query.

It sounds as though you are suffering some distress following your recent trip to Singapore. It seems that you are worried that someone may have deliberately poked you with a needle, and you're worried about your risk for acquiring HIV in this way.

For successful transmission of HIV by needle, it would require that blood containing HIV were injected into your bloodstream. If that were the case, there would be a noticeable puncture wound at the site of the needle prick. From the encounter you describe, it seems very unlikely that this was the case.

As for your symptoms, these cannot be used to diagnose HIV. HIV is a virus and therefore IF symptoms appear they could be similar to many other viruses, and equally, many people later confirmed to be living with HIV did not experience any symptoms at the time of infection. The only reliable way to know your HIV status is through testing.

I notice you mention "ARS", which is an outdated term meaning "AIDS Related Symptoms". It was once used to describe the illnesses experienced by people who have been living with undiagnosed HIV for a long time (typically 10-15 years). I think you mean that you're worried you might have symptoms of sero-conversion, which as mentioned, are not a reliable way to diagnose HIV, and only a test can give you an accurate result.

To answer your questions then:

1) The symptoms you are feeling are not likely to be related to a HIV infection. If you are feeling unwell, please partner with your healthcare provider to have your symptoms properly addressed and managed.

2) As I was not present, I cannot tell you whether you were pricked by a syringe. In the situation you describe, it sounds very unlikely.

3) The only way to know your HIV status is through testing. If you truly believe you were poked by a syringe, then testing would be advisable. We recommend regular testing for all people who are sexually active, and so if you have not had a HIV and STI checkup recently, perhaps it would be sensible to arrange one. (Please take a look at our Risk Assessment to determine whether you have engaged in any "at risk" behaviours.)

I hope that this information helps you to understand your risk of acquiring HIV. If you are still feeling depressed and anxious, please partner with your healthcare provider to find a therapist who can help you to work through these issues.

Best wishes

Wendy (Volunteer)

AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online
helpline.aidsvancouver.org