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Exposure via Broken Skin
Jan 1, 2006

The other day, I accidentally scratched a positive friend with my fingernail and his skin broke. I checked for cuts/wounds on my finger, but couldn't see any. I understand that exposure has to be direct and immediate for transmission of HIV, but I do not know how to gauge the risk in this situation. I do not want to become paranoid about being around my friend, but I also want to know how to protect myself.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

HIV cannot permeate intact skin. Consequently your risk of acquiring HIV is nonexistent. There is extensive information readily available in the archives and at related links on HIV-transmission risk and appropriate prevention strategies. HIV is not transmitted by casual contact. Therefore, unless you are having unprotected sex or sharing IV needles with your friend, you really have nothing to worry about. He, on the other hand, is probably not too happy about being a human scratching post to your cat claws! Maybe it's time for a mani- and pedi-, unless you're using those nails to fend off wild creatures or to climb trees or something like that.

Dr. Bob



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