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HIV transmission by blood immediately after death?

Feb 23, 2007

My husband died of Lymphoma / AIDS. We never told anyone he was HIV+, at his request. Lymphoma was his first and only symptom. As far as anyone knew, he just got cancer. He started anti-virals when he started chemotherapy. His viral load was undetectable at times between chemo treatments. His Tcells didn't drop below 250 until after 2 rounds of chemo and radiation. He stopped all drugs 3 days before death. In the hospital, after he died, his adult daughter spent some time alone with him. She is a cutter and had open wounds on her arms. After death, blood oozed from my husband's mouth/nose. We were very careful when he was alive and I didn't think about transmission after death. His daughter later ordered a death certificate and found out about the AIDS. She was tested twice and is negative. She believes she was exposed when hugging him with open wounds on her arms and possible exposure to the blood that had appeared after death. Is the virus transferable immediately after death? Although she is negative, she has a lot of anger that she was exposed to HIV transmission without her knowledge. Thanks - Stepmom

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Stepmom,

Once again, keeping HIV a secret has led to a completely avoidable problem!

It is theoretically possible to transmit HIV "immediately" after death; the key word being immediately.

Even though your stepdaughter is "a cutter," the chances she had a significant blood-to-blood contact would be extremely low. Her anger may be related to the fact no one told her about her Dad's HIV/AIDS diagnosis as well as to fears about possible exposure/transmission.

She should repeat her HIV test at the three-month mark.

Dr. Bob

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