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Symptoms,symptoms and more symptoms
Feb 16, 2001

Dear Dr. I want to first of all thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, you are definitely a big help...The reason I am writing to you is that about 4 years ago I had a risk encounter (I don't know if it is a high one or not) with my hair stylist. He is HIV+ and while cutting my hair snipped his finger and started to bleed. Later I noticed some acne on my neck and the side of my head and started to freak out if maybe some of his blood came into contact with my open acne sores. I eventually stopped thinking about this until a couple of months ago when I went to my gynecologist for some itching and she told me (after a culture) that it was genital herpes...At the time I was having safe sex with my boyfriend and always used condoms which made me wonder why I have contracted this virus..My boyfriend doesn't have herpes which made me even more worried. Since my diagnosis I have become very worried that I might have HIV due to that encounter 4 years ago..I also have noticed a swollen lymph node on the left side of my neck which has remained the same size for the past 2 months..I have an appointment to get tested next week with my doctor, but I just would really appreciate if you could tell me if this is a high risk encounter (blood in contact with acne, possibly scratched and picked pimples) and if you have heard of a transmission of this sort. Again, thank you very much and God bless

Response from Mr. Kull

It is possible to get infected when you come into contact with HIV positive blood. It seems that HIV is generally transmitted only when blood comes into contact directly with the bloodstream or with mucous membranes. It is difficult to say if acne would provide this access (unlikely) and whether you even came into contact with blood. Infection seems unlikely in your case.

There is no connection between you getting herpes and your risk for infection by the hair stylist. It is possible that you have had herpes for some time and are first noticing or experiencing symptoms. It is also possible that your partner is infected and transmitted herpes to you unknowingly (remember, oral herpes can be transmitted to the genital region as well).

Finding out that you have herpes can be a difficult experience. Medications often improve or relieve symptoms, and most people do not experience significant long-term outbreaks. One study shows that 1 in 5 American adults are infected with HSV-II and that less than 10 percent of the infected reported having symptoms.

Call the National Herpes Hotline (919)361-8488 at the American Social Health Association (ASHA) if you need more info and support.

RMK



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