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HIV from Working at Police Station

Mar 1, 2009

Hi Doctor Bob,

I am very worried about something that happened at work the other day.

I work in the office at a police station. Where I work is not in the main station part where criminals are but I work in another part of the building.

The other day at work I noticed a red smear on my finger tip - about one centimetre long. I was shocked when I saw this and had definately not been working with red pen or ink or anything like that. The only thing I can think of is that I got it from a desk or door handle or something like that at work.

1. Is there any risk of contracting HIV from this if it was in fact HIV infected blood? I worry that a police officer has walked through the building with blood on their hand (from a criminal or from themselves).

2. If someone had spilt blood on something and I touched it very soon after the HIV would still be alive wouldnt it?

3. I didnt have any open cuts but what about rubbing my eye, scratching myself or if I put my finger in my mouth - couldnt it transfer this way?

4. What should I do - should I test? If so how long? Because of the risk of HIV/Hep C does that mean the window period would be 6 months?

Please help doctor - I promise a donation.

Thank you doctor bob - I, like everyone else who contacts you, am panicking about this and will be crossing my fingers and everything else that you will reply.

Response from Dr. Frascino


OK, uncross everything, I'm answering and your worries are unwarranted! Why worry so much about a one centimeter "red smear" on your finger? It's more likely to be Ketchup or jungle red fingernail polish than HIV-tainted blood! Even if it was, HIV cannot permeate intact skin. The chance of your getting enough fresh HIV-positive blood in your mouth or eye without your knowing it is so remote it becomes essentially nonexistent.

To address your specific concerns:

1. No. Plus, it's extremely unlikely your "smear" was blood, let alone fresh HIV-positive blood. Frevinsakes!

2. HIV doesn't survive very long outside the body. This scenario is beyond farfetched.

3. No, see above.

4. What should you do? That's easy. Stop worrying! Your fears are irrational. Should you test? No, HIV testing is not medically warranted. However, if my reassurance is not sufficient for you to shake your worries, get a single HIV-antibody test at the three-month mark. It will undoubtedly be negative. However, if it puts your irrational fears permanently to rest, it may be worth the effort psychologically. I'd also suggest you spend some time reading through the archives of this forum. We have a whole chapter devoted to HIV nonsexual transmission. Pay particular attention to how HIV is and is not transmitted.

Thanks for your donation to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation (

Be well. Stay well. (Yes, you are indeed well!)

Dr. Bob

hiv symptoms?
Possibilty that I transmitted the virus....

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