While at work I touched the hand of an individual that appeared to have an actively bleeding cut or tear on his cuticle. I have a bunch of small tears and cuts on my hands and around my cuticles. Is there any risk for an HIV infection if I
1) touched his cut with my cuts
2) got some of the blood on my hands and I didn’t notice than itched my eye
3) came into contact with blood that he may have transferred to a pen or piece of paper.

Thank you



Thank you for your inquiry. From what we gather from the question, you were asking about the possibility of HIV transmission through a) cuts on your hands in contact with those on another individual, b) blood into your eye, and c) touching an object that may have been contaminated with another individual's blood. From the information provided, the first and third scenario are determined to be No Risk (HIV transmission is not possible in the given scenario), while the second scenario has a Negligible Risk level (there is no evidence or no documented cases of transmission, however, there is a theoretical possibility of transmission under certain extenuating circumstances).

Addressing the first and last scenarios mentioned, HIV outside of the body (contained in a body fluid like blood) is exposed to oxygen, which causes a rapid reduction in HIV concentration (1). From the CDC, HIV outside of the body that is drying on a surface (in this case being the other individual's hands or inanimate objects like a pen/piece of paper), has a rapid (within several hours) reduction in HIV concentration of 90-99% (1). In addition, small superficial cuts, like the ones on your hands, are not deep enough to permit direct access of blood into your bloodstream. A higher risk of HIV transmission would be present if the cuts on your hands were deeper or larger open wounds. The two scenarios discussed here do not meet the requirements for the HIV Transmission Equation as they do not permit sufficient access to the bloodstream through a High, Low, or Negligible Risk activity.

With regards to the second scenario, the reason why there is a Negligible Risk level here is due to the fact that the Transmission Equation (discussed above) can be satisfied. HIV in a bodily fluid (blood in this example) can theoretically access the bloodstream by travelling through the mucous membranes of your eye. However, as mentioned previously, HIV outside of the body drying on a surface such as your hands undergoes a rapid reduction in HIV concentration over several hours. Furthermore, if the individual that you contacted was indeed living with HIV (and was aware of their status), they would most likely be taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART drugs would help them achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, and no longer able to transmit HIV to other individuals (2). Both of these reasons therefore significantly decrease the likelihood of HIV transmission taking place in this scenario.

Recommendation: There are no evidence or no documented cases of transmission. Refer to a healthcare professional for more personalized answers.

All the best,

AIDS Vancouver Online/Helpline, Shirley



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