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Can you settle an on-going classroom debate?

Oct 22, 2008

Dr. Bob I wanted to know if you could clear up some confusion. A discussion was being held amogst a group of my friends, and we were talking about discarded syringes in parks and on the beach. Now the argument is split between those who think stepping on a discarded needle is an HIV risk, and those of us who don't.

Now since I have read HIV does not live long outside the body, I think that if a needle was discarded the virus inside would die...but some are saying that it would be a risk, because drug users who share needles are at risk..

We have come up with 3 questions....A)How long does HIV live in a syringe? B)If someone stepped on a discarded syringe that hadn't been used for let's say 10 minutes, would that be a risk? C)If someone steps on a discarded syringe, do you recommend testing on a medical basis, or just to clear the mind?

On another note, I have come to this site in the past and now I am sharing this site with my college class so that everyone can learn! Thanks for the help here, and helping me in the past.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi College-Kids,

A. How long does HIV survive in a syringe? Well, that's actually a more complicated question than you might initially guess. It's generally well known that HIV does not survive long outside the body. However, survival within a hollow-bore syringe is a bit more complex, due to several variables. The hollow-bore needle creates an isolated airtight environment where a volume of blood is somewhat protected and consequently HIV can remain viable longer than in the open air. Certainly size of the hollow-bore needle, volume of blood contained within it, HIV viral load and ambient temperature would all come into play and have a significant effect on the lifespan of HIV within the syringe. One study of HIV survival within syringes performed under ideal laboratory conditions (not the "real world" environment) found some viable HIV virus days later.

B. There would be a theoretical risk. However, the actual risk would be quite low.

C. Both.

Stay well guys and thanks for tuning into the forum!

Dr. Bob

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