Anonymous
Almost 3 weeks ago I assisted at a car accident. I had some cuts from a day or two before (one was from slicing the very top fraction of my finger off with a knife while cooking). They had healed enough to take the dressing off, but the one on top of my finger was still deep red and tender. At the accident I had the casualties blood (mostly thick and clotted but in large amounts) covering my hands for about 10 minutes. I wasn't offered PEP as I was considered low risk but I was unable to find out the poor gentleman's HIV and Hep status. It was mentioned that drugs may have been involved in the accident as only one car was involved and he drove into roadside objects at great speed.
The first doctor I spoke to (the day after) said that I was at no risk of contracting HIV and that he was only testing me to put my mind at ease. He said that even if I was infected that in the first few months I would not be at risk of infecting my partner through unprotected sex. The second doctor I saw (2 weeks after) said that I was at risk and that if I was infected then I would me more likely rather than less likely to pass on HIV in the initial conversation phase.
8 Days after my first exposure I got a few hot flushes that lasted a few hours. I have not had hot flushes like that before, though I am a female in my 40s. Since then I have had mild headaches and muscle aches for the last week, and my throat and neck are a little sore.

The information I have read on the internet and got from two doctors is really contradictory regarding:
a) my risk of infection. (does having a long exposure to blood of 10 minutes or more increase the risk of infection?).b) if someone who is recently infected with HIV is very likely or very unlikely to experience any symptoms in the first few weeks after infection?
c) If a recently infected person is more or less likely to pass on HIV through unprotected sex during the first 3 months of infection (I have heard that this is when the viral load is highest, and I have also heard that this is when the viral load is lowest as it takes years to increase)

Sincere thanks you for your help.
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Anonymous
Hi there and thank you for contacting the AIDS Vancouver Helpline forum.

It sounds like you're concerned about a possible exposure to HIV and some symptoms you've been experiencing.

It is really unfortunate that there is so much contradictory information out there, especially from doctors! What I can tell you is that your experience helping at the car accident (good for you for being a good samaritan and helping, we need more people in the world like you!) does not have a risk of HIV. This is due to two reasons:

* (1) When HIV in blood is exposed to the air it becomes non-transmissible. The blood you were exposed to from the accident victim would have been exposed to the air so even if they were HIV positive the virus would not have been able to be transmitted to you.

* (2) HIV needs direct access to the bloodstream in order to be acquired. Small cuts are not enough to provide direct access. Unless the cuts you had were so large that they needed stitches there would not have been direct access to the bloodstream. And finally, having a longer exposure to blood would not increase your risk of infection.

In regards to symptoms, at AIDS Vancouver we do not go by symptoms as an indicator of HIV because there are many reasons that symptoms could be present. The symptoms you've been experiencing could be present for any number of reasons that do not have to do with HIV.

Although the exposure you have experienced can be considered no-risk, we always want to encourage the safest measures to be taken. Having said that, if an individual is unsure about their HIV status, the safest measure would be to carry out an HIV test that will provide a conclusive indication of your status, and to refrain from high-risk activities (e.g. unprotected sexual intercourse) in the mean time.

HIV tests are considered to be conclusive after 3 months, so if you are planning to get an HIV test this is when results are most accurate. To find HIV testing sites in Canada you can visit [www.hiv411.ca](www.hiv411.ca) or if you are in the United States you can visit [www.aids.gov](www.aids.gov) to finding testing sites.

If you're looking for more information about HIV you can always check out the AIDS Vancouver website. There is lots of information there and we try to stay as up to date as possible as new information around HIV is discovered (so hopefully there will be no conflicting information!).

I hope this information helps to answer your questions and out your mind at ease. It is unfortunate that you have received so much conflicting information, I sincerely hope that this does not happen again in the future! Also, feel free to give our helpline a call if you have any further questions or concerns, we would be happy to talk to you.

Isla (Volunteer)

AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online

Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm (PST)

604-253-0566 ext. 299

Private and Confidential
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