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Pricked with a sewing needle

Question: 

Hi, I lived for a couple of days with a person whose status is hiv+. She told me her viral load was undetectable at the moment due to medication. One afternoon I accidentaly pricked my finger 3 times with a sewing needle which was stuck on my bag. I'm not sure whether that sewing needle pricked her seconds before (at least 10 seconds before) or not. Given the case she also pricked herself, Am I at risk of transmission? I am very concerned, thanks in advance.

Answer: 

Hello,

Thank you for your inquiry. From what we gather from the question, you were asking about the risk of HIV transmission after you pricked your finger on a sewing needle that was sticking out of your bag. You are concerned that the person you live with may have also pricked their finger on the needle before you. From the information given, this scenario is determined to be No Risk (transmission of HIV is not possible in the given scenario).

When assessing risk of HIV transmission we do not focus on or speculate about the HIV status of another individual, it is simply not helpful. What is most important for an accurate assessment, is focusing on the activity or activities engaged in within the scenario, and assessing whether or not the activity/activities satisfy the three components of the HIV transmission equation(1).

The scenario mentioned above does not meet the three components of the transmission equation(1). It does not satisfy the equation because:

  • For transmission to occur, the three components of the HIV Transmission Equation(1) must be met: there must be HIV present in a bodily fluid (ie: in blood, semen or rectal secretions), direct access to the bloodstream (ie: inside of the vagina, anus and other mucous membranes) paired with a high risk activity (ie: unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse, sharing needles, mother to child)(1).

  • HIV does not survive long outside the human body (such as on surfaces), and it cannot reproduce outside a human host(2).

HIV is not transmitted by household objects such as a sewing needles, shared utensils and dishes, or any appliances or future in shared spaces. The activity in this scenario is pricking your finger on a sewing needle. This is a No Risk activity. This is because, HIV does not survive long outside the human body (such as on household objects like a sewing needle), and it cannot reproduce outside a human host(2). Any potential bodily fluids containing HIV on the sewing needle, had already been outside of the body, exposed to environmental conditions and thus, unable to transmit HIV to you. We can also see from above that the act of pricking oneself on a sewing needle does not meet the three components of the HIV transmission equation(1).

Since the person you live with has disclosed to you that they are living with an undetectable viral load, we would like to take this opportunity provide you with a bit more information on what exactly that means.

According to Avert.org, "A person living with HIV is considered to have an ‘undetectable’ viral load when antiretroviral treatment has brought the level of virus in their body to such low levels that blood tests cannot detect it. There is no risk of passing on HIV if your doctor has confirmed that you are undetectable (or virally suppressed), you continue taking your treatment and attend regular viral load monitoring appointments. Undetectable = Untransmittable."(3) This key takeaway here is that Undetectable = Untransmittable.

Thanks again for your question! We would encourage you to check out the resources listed below to learn more about HIV and HIV transmission.

Recommendation: No need for HIV test with the scenario provided, refer to a physician for other health related questions

Regards, AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online, Hilary