Hi there! I am a dentist, and was inserting a metalic matrix in between two teeth. I had to push real firmly the matrix with the pulp of one of my fingers. In the middle of the procedure, and with the gloves full of blood, I noticed a break (tear) in one of the fingers of the glove. I removed the glove, put on a new one and continued to work. When I was done, I noticed that one of my fingers, the same corresponding to where the glove tore, had a cut similarly to a paper cut. I squeezed as much as I could, and it did not bleed. I opened it as much as I could, and could see just a slightly deep area, but no bleeding. I cleaned with 70% ethanol, and felt anything. Scrubbed with detergent, and after 2 hours, I decided to open the cut and remove the edges so I could check if any bleeding had occurred more deeply that could not be seen otherwise. I did all the procedure with a lot of ethanol and detergent soap. Again, no bleeding, just an increased sensibility to touch as part of the epidermis had been removed. I squeezed as much as I could again, and no bleeding. However, I am still concerned that microscopic access to the bloodstream might have occurred. In such a case, would I feel the stinging with the ethanol? The patient was my boss´s husband, and she said to me that he had no disease. But who knows? Would you recommend PEP in a case like this? Thanks a lot!!!
Hi there and thank-you for using the AIDS Vancouver Helpline as your resource for HIV/AIDS related information.
First of all, for a risk of HIV to exist, specific HIV+ fluids (in your case, blood), must come into direct contact with the blood stream of an HIV- person. HIV is an extremely weak virus and cannot live once exposed to air. If, as you stated, the paper cut was "dry" i.e. not bleeding, it would be impossible for you to have contracted HIV.
Secondly, there is no amount of washing, detergent, disinfectant or any other method of cleansing that can prevent infection.
Thirdly, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) needs to be started within 2-72 hours (ideally before 36 hours), post-exposure, to be effective. After 72 hours, PEP is not useful at all in preventing infection. If you would like to learn more about PEP, please see below for more information.
I would suggest that you need not be concerned about contracting HIV. However, I would recommend you discuss this with your Health Care Professional as you may wish to discuss other types of blood-borne infections and their possible risks to you, especially in your profession.
You may also wish to discuss at that time the best way to clean and dress wounds. Generally speaking, it is advised that a person not use any alcohol based disinfectants to clean wounds. Hospitals typically use saline (salt water) for cleaning and dressing cuts, scrapes and other wounds.
I trust I have addressed your concerns, however if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us again.
Stay safe and healthy!
AIDS Vancouver Helpline Volunteer
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