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Bullet hit me with HIV
Aug 22, 2006

Hello Dr Bob.

I am a young man who was recently in the wrong place at the wrong time. I live in a pretty rough neighbourhood. It was late at night when I was watching TV when I heard arguing outside and a woman screaming. Anyway I ran out into the darkness (stupid) and ran straight into the path of a bullet fired by a cop. The bullet had already gone through another man though. It hadn't hit any major blood carrying organs but had skimmed his right shoulder before lodging in my left elbow. It was removed successfully and my orthopaedic surgeon says my elbow will be OK. But, the man who the bullet first went through had AIDS, as I was later informed. I was put on PEP as a precaution.

I have read through the archives looking for anything remotely close to this sort of scenario but the closest thing I could find was 'looks like you dodged the HIV bullet this time' - no pun intended. I am trying to keep my sense of humour about this whole thing - after all, it could have hit me in the head. So, do you think there is significant risk?

I realise that HIV cannot survive in open air but it would have only been in the air for less than a second.

Any thoughts would be great. I will donate anyway as I realise there are people far worse off than me!

Best wishes to you ~ Pete.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Pete,

Wow! Wrong place at the wrong time indeed! Sounds like an episode of "The Shield" or "24!" I'm not surprised you didn't find a host of similar situations in the archives! I believe this is indeed an archival original! (Haven't had one of those in quite awhile. Congratulations!?)

I would agree your HIV risk would be extremely slight, because a speeding bullet is a solid object as opposed to a hollow-bore syringe needle, for instance and it would have passed through clothing on the perp's shoulder on its way to your elbow, thereby decreasing the potential amount of HIV tainted blood actually penetrating your skin. That said, I also agree with the decision to take PEP as a precaution. (After all, from what's happened so far, one might conclude you aren't the world's luckiest guy, right? So it's probably better that you don't tempt fate.)

Pete, I'm glad you are keeping your sense of humor. I find mine has been very helpful in coping with adversity and making sense of a second Bush presidency!

Good luck. I'm here if you need me, OK?

Dr. Bob



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