Hi AIDS Vancouver,

I have a question about a couple of potential exposures that I had recently that I was wondering whether or not I should be concerned about.

The first exposure involves dirty bathroom water - If dirty water from a bathroom floor (generic brown dirty) splashes onto my genital area, is there risk of transmission of HIV? There would have only been a few drop's worth that splashed onto the naked genital area, but it's worth noting that I had both irritation and acne around my anus and penis. What's the degree of risk associated with this kind of exposure?

The second exposure involves a person with a fairly fresh bandage on their finger hugging / patting me while I'm holding a shirt I was about to put on. If this individual's bandage came into contact with the inside of my shirt, which I then put on almost immediately afterwards, is there any risk of transmission? I don't recall seeing visible blood, but if the part of my shirt that he touched rubbed across my face, is there risk of transmission?

Thank you for any help and information you can provide.
Hello and thank you for your inquiries.

We will address both of your scenarios, which you consider to be potential environmental exposures. The first scenario involves dirty water splashing onto your genitals, the second involves a person touching you with a bandaged finger. Both of these situations are classified as No Risk for HIV transmission, meaning that transmission of HIV is not possible in the given scenario.

In order for HIV transmission to occur, all three of the following conditions must be met:

1. There must be HIV present in a bodily fluid. (1) In your scenarios there is no clear evidence of bodily fluids and no source who is known to be HIV positive.

2. The bodily fluid containing HIV must have direct access to the bloodstream. (1) Acne and mild irritation of the skin do not provide the direct access to your bloodstream necessary for an HIV transmission.

3. Transmission occurs through a risky activity in which the first two conditions are met. (1) Sharing hypodermic needles for injection of intravenous drugs, and unprotected sex are examples of high risk activities. Using public washrooms and hugging are not high risk activities.

Scientists and medical authorities agree that HIV does not survive well in the environment, making the possibility of environmental transmission remote. Drying of HIV infected human blood or other body fluids reduces the risk of environmental transmission to that which has been observed — essentially zero. Incorrect interpretations of conclusions drawn from laboratory studies, which require the use of artificially high concentrations of laboratory-grown virus, have unnecessarily alarmed some people. Results from laboratory studies should not be used to assess specific personal risk of infection because the amount of virus studied is not found in human specimens or elsewhere in nature, and no one has been identified as infected with HIV due to contact with an environmental surface. HIV is unable to reproduce outside its living host (unlike many bacteria or fungi, which may do so under suitable conditions), except under laboratory conditions; therefore, it does not spread or maintain infectiousness outside its host. (2)

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

AIDS Vancouver Helpline Volunteer, Dyson

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