Hello, I was walking past a homeless man today that I have seen once before and he spoke to me. As I walked past and said hello we went for a slight handshake but I don't recall feeling anything more than his fingers. As I saw his palm it looked as though he had a long cut across his palm that didn't appear to be dripping so I assume it was a scab. As I said before I do not recall touching that much of his hand but unsure. As I walked past, my fingers that made contact with his hand felt slightly wet, I was unsure if this was due to me worrying over nothing but with close inspection to my fingers there was no smell or colour so I doubt it was blood or semen if any liquid at all. I have a habit of scratching the sides of my nails and I have got parts of skin pulled off, almost like it's cracked although there is no blood that spills from them (not sure if this is considered an open cut)..
This homeless man doesn't seem completely mentally stable, I am unsure if this is due to alcohol or drugs although both are common in my area. I'm worried that I might have caught HIV through the brief encounter with this man. Any explanation of the risks would be great, maybe I'm being stupid but would rather be told that by somebody else.
Hi there and thank you for reaching out to AIDS Vancouver with your questions! We're happy to help.
I'm happy to let you know that the situation you described is No Risk for two different reasons.
1) The bodily fluids that may have been on the man's hand are exposed to the environment and are therefore not a risk. HIV is a delicate virus that cannot survive exposure to the environment, it becomes damaged and inactivated and unable to be transmitted to anyone else. This eliminates any risk from bodily fluids that are not either from direct bodily contact (like unprotected sex) or needle sharing (the syringe barrel is air-tight and temporarily protects the virus from environmental factors). Any other exposure to bodily fluids in the environment are No Risk.
2) The cuts you may have had on your hand are also not a risk factor for HIV transmission. In order to transmit HIV, the cut must be sufficient to provide direct access to the blood stream. Small cuts, scratches, wounds, etc do not provide this. In order for cuts to provide this, they need to be severe, such as ones that are gushing blood, or require immediate medical attention such as stitches. The cut you describe is therefore No Risk.
For more information about how HIV is transmitted, please visit http://www.avert.org/hiv-transmission-prevention.
I hope this helped!
AIDS Vancouver Online Helpline
Private & Confidential