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OCD for HIV
Sep 18, 2003

I have a private pt. with OCD re: HIV. We have several questions to ask you regarding transmission of the HIV virus. 1. How much blood is necessary to transmit the disease? 2. If I have a cut on my finger, how deep must the cut be to have the virus infect me? 3. How long does it take for the virus to die after it is exposed to the air? I picked up a coin the other day, and if it had tainted blood on it, what is the likelihood that I could get the virus? 4. If I were actively bleeding from my small cut on my thumb, would my own blood act as a barrier or a host to become infected? I would appreciate your answers and any referrences you can provide me to alleviate my fears.

Response from Dr. Horwath

1) The risk of transmission by infected blood is directly related to the type of exposure. The highest risk is with deep injection (eg. with a needle into a vein or deep under the skin). Substantial risk is associated with blood spilled onto mucous membranes or an open cut or abraded skin. The lowest risk is blood spilled onto intact skin. The quantity of blood is less important than the route of exposure. A small amount of infected blood injected into a vein may cause transmission, whereas a large amount of blood spilled onto intact skin is not likely to cause transmission.

2 and 4) If a cut is open and unhealed, then it is a possible portal of virus entry. A fresh cut with visible blood poses a high risk if exposed to infected blood or other infected body fluids. Your own blood is not a barrier.

3) HIV is not a robust virus outside of a host. Transmission needs to be direct, blood to blood, body to body. You cannot catch it by picking up a coin.



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