« Go Back

Healthcare Worker Needle Exposure

Question: 

I fell and split my knee open and went to the ER. I had a terrible experience at the ER because I had to wait so long to be stitched up and I like to have needles and anything being used on me opened up in front of me, but because I had to wait so long I went to use the bathroom and when I got back the Physician Assistant was already opening up my needle and syringe she was using to inject lidocaine to numb my knee before stitching. I'm going to be honest with you I have a very serious hiv phobia where I think people would reuse needles or do something to infect me in not only healthcare settings but every day settings. Regardless it did not help the fact that I told the person with the needle I was scared of the needle but she didnt know about my hiv phobia she just assumed I was afraid because it was a big needle. She injected me with the needle I did not get to see opened and prepared in front of me and then asked me if I was numb. For some odd reason she told me that it should feel like a slight tapping and with the same needle she injected me with she was demonstrating a light tapping on the top of her bare hand. Literally tapping the needle that was in me on top of her ungloved hand. I think she had one glove on one off and I dont know why. Is it possible she had one on and one off because its easier to stitch with an ungloved hand? I am freaking out because she touched her bare hand with my needle that she put back in my knee to inject medicine in the other side of my knee. So just so it's clear she injected me, asked if it was numb then told me it should feel very light on my skin and demonstrated by tapping the tip of my needle on her bare hand on the top of her hand then decided to inject my knee with more lidocaine all before she stitched me up. I went to my doctors the next day freaking out and was concerned about hiv risk even though I didnt see her putting the needle in her hand or any blood, but why she was tapping her hand and then put it back in my knee I am beyond horrified. I am worried that she has HIV and when I was in the bathroom when she was preparing my needle how do I know she didnt use the needle on herself to contaminate it with HIV and inject it into me. For all I know she could have used a dirty needle on me or poked herself on purpose with it to infect me because I'm worried she waited for me to go into the bathroom to do that so I wouldnt see her. My doctor said that is very unlikely and did not think I needed to be concerned but said if I would feel better I could do an hiv test in 3 months. I took one now and it was negative and am planning to take one 3 months after exposure. It happened on July 8 and my appointment to retake is 10/23 or 24th because I wanted a week or so after 3 months because should I really trust a result at 3 months? My doctor and another doctor i talked to and everyone else said that they would not be concerned about hiv from this and did say yeah it was odd what she did but they would have thought nothing of it regarding hiv and that I'm being extremely worried over nothing. Can u please tell me if I am worrying for nothing and if it sounds like I am at risk? This was a Physician Assistant and I think she is married to a woman because I researched her to see if I could find out anything about her and I believe shes a lesbian. I'm not trying to stereotype but those are all the facts. Do you think I am being extreme that I'm worried she was poking herself with my needle while I was in the bathroom to get the needle dirty to infect me or do you think it's my hiv phobia that is making me think that way? The way I think is why would she touch the tip of my needle on her bare hand and re insert the needle back in me if she wasnt trying to infect me? Clearly she isn't protecting herself so it makes me think she already has hiv and now I'm worried what else she was doing with my needle when I was in the bathroom. PLEASE HELP ME and tell me the truth of what you think. Should I be worried about hiv? I am so upset. Also should I trust the result when I retake the test and is 10/23 sufficient time to wait? Would u be worried If this? Also, I already know I can report anything I want to the Department of Health and I did but they told me I would have to tell them my name and I am uncomfortable with that because I do not want the Physician Assistant knowing I reported her but also feel a little bit silly because I do have irrational thoughts. My doctor and another doctor I saw both do not think I have anything to worry about and let me test just for my own piece of mind and I told a few friends and my mom and they all did not think anything of it and think I am being ridiculous. I want to know if I really am being irrational/ridiculous by a professional opinion. I am scared to do my retest I am worried the lady infected me with a dirty syringe either one that was already dirty or perhaps maybe she used herself and then on me. I have no way of knowing what happened while I was in the bathroom because like I said she already opened the needle and filled the syringe with lidocaine. I guess the whole scary thoughts started because I already dont trust people with needles, relate needles to hiv and the FACT that she was trying to I dont know comfort me?? by showing me how it should feel by tapping the needle that was already in me on the top part of her BARE hand, then decided she was going to give more lidocaine injects in my knee. I am really freaking out please help me and tell me if you think this is an actual concern!

Answer: 

Hello,

Thank you for your inquiry. From what we understand from your question, you are concerned about a needle that was used on you potentially having been previously exposed to HIV through a healthcare worker. From the information given, and considering you were in a healthcare setting, it is highly unlikely that you were exposed or that there is a risk. Since you have already spoken to multiple physicians and had a test taken, and another test appointment made, we would say you have covered all your bases.

Your decision to speak to your physicians about getting tested was good as it will help dispel your worries, and if you are getting a second test at 3 months then you have done all you can. In this case, we would suggest letting the physicians handle your test timing. Research with different tests has led to specific time-frames being used, so if 3 months is the recommended then 3 months should be a good time to be tested next.

The healthcare worker's sexual preference should have no bearing on this situation, as it is activities that lead to HIV acquisition and not sexuality or gender. Any person or persons who engage in high-risk activities is at risk of HIV acquisition, just as any person who does not engage in these activities is not at risk.

Thank you,

AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online, Sara