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cut on hand in public bathroom

Mar 14, 2002

I had a little tiny hangnail on my finger and cut it off. There was at that point a minute cut on my hand, it was not bleeding but it was a little sore. A couple of hours later I used a public bathroom at the mall. This bathroom has been known as a place for men to frequent to masturbate but I had to go. I urinated then washed my hands. As I was placing the paper towel in the trash can, I felt that I had hit my cut finger on the edge. The cut was not bleeding at the time, but I quickly washed it and rubbed it dry. The pressure of me rubbing caused my finger to bleed a tiny bit. I examined the edge of the trash can myself and I could not see anything other than a little bit of water. Could I possibly become infected that way or am I just being paranoid? I am usually very careful about touching things if I have a cut on my hand. Please let me know. I would not want to risk infecting my partner.

Response from Mr. Kull

Based on the epidemiological knowledge of HIV and its transmission, there is no evidence that HIV has been transmitted through casual contact/contact with objects in the day-to-day environment. It's important to remember that HIV is only known to be transmitted through the following three ways:

1)Sexual contact: anal, vaginal, and oral sex

2) Blood-to-blood contact: sharing injection needles, occupational exposures, blood transfusions (which is rare in the U.S.).

3) Mother-to-infant: either through delivery or during breast feeding

If you are not engaging in any of these activities, then the odds of transmission are theoretical only.

Also, HIV does not survive in the environment long enough to cause transmission through contact outside of the above three categories. This is why we don't see transmission through contact with inanimate objects and other forms of casual contact (like eating food, sharing drinking glasses, using public restrooms, etc.). Studies of families living with an HIV infected person have demonstrated this. See Survival of HIV in the Environment for more information.


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