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Multiple Needle Pricks from stranger

Question: 

Hi, so a few months ago, I was visiting another city. While taking a walk with my friends we noticed a homeless man who was about to fall over, so my friend quickly went to go help him stand up and sit down on a bench. Meanwhile I saw that the man had left his belongings on the ground, including a plastic bag. As I grabbed the plastic bag to give it to the man, with my hands, I noticed a sharp sensation in a few places in my hand, like needle pricks. I opened the bag and saw needle syringes scattered with tissues. My hand was also bleeding in maybe 3 spots. I never made the connection that this was a risk, as I just assumed it was for diabetes or something, and just cleaned my hands and went on without more thought.

However, I recently read about the risks of needle pricks, and am now highly worried I was exposed to something like HIV.

Do you think there was any risk?

Answer: 

Hi there,

Thank you for your inquiry. From what we gather from the question, you were asking about your risk of HIV transmission given needle pricks from used syringes.

From the information given, this scenario is determined to be High Risk (evidence of transmission through these activities and is the majority of cases of transmission). Needle stick injuries and needle sharing are among the highest risk for HIV transmission (1). The reason for this is that used needles may provide a vacuum seal for HIV positive fluid (blood), extending its active potential.

Regardless of known HIV status of the person who's needle you had come into contact with, it is important to immediately seek biomedical protective measures such as PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) within the 72 hour window period, to reduce your chance of HIV transmission. PEP works by blocking the virus from replicating after a recent exposure, and can greatly reduce the likelihood of HIV acquisition in the body (2).

**Recommendation*: Refer to physician for HIV testing.

All the best,

AIDS Vancouver Online/Helpline, Cody