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HIV from menstrual blood on gym equipment
Jun 10, 2008

Hi Dr. Bob. First off let me see that you're website is such a blessing, I am living in a small (very small, hick if you will, southern town -my husband's idea) but one of my HIV + friends turned me on to your website before I moved from DC just because he loved it so much. Here is my situation... I am a member of a fitness club for women here (the only one in town) and have enjoyed my time there. Today when trying to go workout, the sign said closed? So I saw the owner inside and she told me that some member had soiled the bathroom (menstruation blood) with dirtied paper towels and some left over blood on the towel dispenser. She had cleaned it up but some other members she was relaying the story to walked out because they were afraid "of some disease". I tried to reassure her and the other members who were leaving that I'm (pretty sure not an expert here) that there was nothing to worry about with the equipment. They all scoffed anyway. The gym is closed indefinitely because of the scandal. So I called my doctor trying to get an official opinion that I could give to her so that they wouldn't spread mass hysteria around this small town, but he said he was not an expert either. So Dr. Bob, you are my last resort in trying to keep everyone in this Podunk town from spreading rumors, my gym from closing etc. (I need my gym - hello baby weight). If a woman who was having her period got a little messy in the loo, and then forgot to wash her hands or didnt wash them very well. could she have spread HIV to the machines and could members who use those machines after her, who get sweaty and wipe their faces etc, be at risk for HIV?

Please help! And God bless.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

They "closed the gym indefinitely because of the scandal." YIKES! No doubt HIV ignorance, stigma and hysteria are alive and well in Small Town, U.S.A. If any of the small-minded folks living in Small Town, U.S.A. had had even the most basic HIV/AIDS education in school (or read anything rational about the pandemic in the past quarter century), this type of ridiculous behavior would never occur. First of all, it's highly doubtful the perpetrator of this scandalous and vicious act (wink) was HIV infected. And second, HIV does not survive outside the body. If HIV were that easy to catch, it would have wiped out the planet long ago. Either your small-minded friends are the type who reject science and common sense in favor of irrational beliefs (like folks who "believe" Saddam was involved with 9/11 or that we'll eventually find WMD in Iraq or that compassionate conservatives really exist, etc.) or perhaps the chubby ladies were just looking for an excuse not to work off their underarm dingle-dangle. As for what to do, try calling your city or state health department. They should readily give the gym an all-clear rating. If not, I'd suggest you convince Hubby-Man to move back to D.C. or at least back from the Twilight Zone.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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