I work in a laboratory that processes blood products and after we had finished for the day, I went to change out of my scrubs and scratched one of my fingers with another fingernail hard enough that it bled. Prior to this, I had washed my hands, put on gloves, and entered the lab to finish up my work, where the only thing I came into contact with (while wearing gloves) was a computer and keyboard we use next to our blood-typing equipment. The table gets blood on it sometimes due to the nature of the work but it is generally (assuming my coworkers are somewhat conscientious) quickly cleaned with antimicrobial solution and there was no blatantly visible blood, wet or dry, that I noticed. I finished the work, left the lab and threw out the gloves before changing, which is when I scratched myself. My hands had not yet been washed after taking off the gloves which is why I am concerned there was perhaps an exposure risk despite the cut having not come into direct contact with wet blood (my ungloved hands had not come into contact with anything in the lab). If the cut hadn't bled I wouldn't be worried but does this warrant seeking out PEP or is this just anxiety?
Should add: the blood products we process come from cord blood for future stem cell transplant use, so I'm assuming they are screened prior to processing since it would not make sense to use HIV-positive blood for a stem cell transplant.
Thank you for your inquiry and thank you for your patience on such a time sensitive matter. From what we gather from the question, you were asking about the possibility of HIV transmission in the event that you scratched yourself with the presence of blood product under your nails.
From the information given, this scenario is determined to be No Risk (HIV transmission is not possible in the given scenario). Small scratches, especially with blood that has been exposed to environmental surfaces or oxygen are of No Risk to you when it comes to HIV transmission. HIV outside of the body or drying HIV positive fluid undergoes a rapid reduction in concentration when exposed to the environment (1). For this reason, under the circumstances that you have described, there would have been no opportunity for HIV transmission to occur.
HIV transmission mainly occurs from person to person, and only under certain extenuating circumstances (such as needle sharing) is it able to transmit from environment to person.
Further, unless you had accidentally injured yourself with a tool or needle that was previously used on another, or engaged in any other High Risk activity (condomless sex/breast feeding), there is no need to seek out PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) for immediate treatment.
Recommendation: No need for HIV screening and/or PEP for the scenario provided. Please refer to your health care provider for additional health related questions.
All the best,
AIDS Vancouver Online/Helpline, Cody