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Superficial cut made by needle

Question: 

I've on here that superficial cuts are not a risk for HIV since it does not provide direct access to the bloodstream. I was wondering, would a superficial cut made by a needle that had of HIV-blood on it be a risk for HIV? Or would this still not be a risk since the cut was superficial?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Answer: 

Hi there and thanks for reaching out to the AIDS Vancouver Helpline. My name is Colin and I'm happy to answer your questions today.

I understand you are concerned about the risk of contracting HIV after getting a superficial injury via needle versus another kind of cut. I hope the information I can give you will help put your mind at ease.

In a nutshell, the risk of acquiring HIV through a superficial injury is unchanged regardless of what is causing the injury. For there to be a successful transmission, there must first be HIV present. Next there must be an exchange of bodily fluids with direct access to the bloodstream. Additionally, and most important in your case, is that once exposed to the air for even a few moments, while it may not necessarily die, the HIV virus is immediately rendered non-transmissible meaning it can no longer be passed on from person to person.

With all that in mind, when talking about the heightened risk from injury from a needle injury, it is not from any contamination on the outside or an inherent risk in being scratched, but because the barrel of the syringe is able to maintain an oxygen-free environment. Therefore if some fluid (blood) containing HIV were remaining in the barrel and then the needle was used on someone else, there is a risk that active, infectious HIV can find direct access to the bloodstream. If the injury in question is simply a small scratch from a syringe and not actually a puncture wound, then the risk would be the same as being nicked with another fully air-exposed surface like a knife or jagged surface edge.

I hope the information I've been able to provide has been helpful today. Please feel free to post again if you have any more questions.

All the best

Colin

AIDS Vancouver Helpline