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marry me dr bob! (I'm a lesbian so that proposal is a big deal!:)
Jun 10, 2009

Hi Dr. Bob!

First I wanted to say I am a 24 year old lesbian who just came out last year, and am happily involved with a female partner. I was raised in a very strict, strange little cult that equated homosexuality with eternal damnation, so as you can imagine it took some time for me to get to this point. My dad is gay, but went to this cult and denied it long enough to get married, produce my three siblings and I, and abuse us. He finally left when I was 12, and came out when I was 15. He told me he was afraid we would turn out like him, and was trying to "beat the gay out of us". Obviously he is insane, but I have moved on from him. I also have OCD, which I have had since I was a child. My fear of HIV used to be so strong I was terrified to leave the house. I believe this fear was mostly due to lack of education on the disease, OCD, and residual religious guilt about my orientation. I have been in therapy for over a year, and I discovered your site about six months ago. I have never seen such coherent, witty, and reassuring advice on this disease anywhere else. All that being said, I have a question. I still have fears that I will step on blood on the ground, or that I will step on a syringe containing blood and contract HIV. While I know that there are generally not syringes lying out on the ground in my area, this fear persists, and is exacerbated by reading stories of things like this happening. My co-worker saw a syringe on the ground by the store the other day, and it still had visible blood in it. I have read stories of children stepping on syringes and it going through their shoes. So I guess this is my question, if I were to step on a syringe, could it go through the shoe into my foot and infect me? Also, how long does HIV live inside of a syringe? I am tired of inspecting the ground when I walk, and want to be completely free of these fears. Thank you so much for all you do, you have saved my life. You have no idea, when I have an irrational HIV fear flash through my head now, I literally think "what would Dr. Bob say"? However, I'm not sure on this one, so I figured I would try to see what Dr. Bob would say for myself:) If you can, and if you have time, I would love if you would answer my silly little question for me. Thank you again for sacrificing your time to help worried people like me. You are awesome and I love you:)

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Lesbian Newbie,

Stepping on blood on the ground, which is not all that common unless you happen to work in a knife sharpening factory with lots of clumsy coworkers, is not a risk for HIV transmission. First, most blood is not HIV infected. Second, HIV doesn't survive very long outside the body. And third, even if you got fresh HIV blood on your foot, HIV cannot permeate intact skin. So the chances of your contracting HIV from stepping on blood are the same as the chances of Dick Cheney becoming president and spokesperson for PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

Similarly the chances of your stepping on a syringe filled with fresh HIV-tainted blood are beyond remote. I'd place the odds as similar to those of your having a three-way with the Bush twins. HIV may live a bit longer in an airtight syringe than in the open air, but still HIV won't survive all that long. (I can't give you an exact number of minutes, because there are many variables to consider: amount of blood, air in the syringe, viral load, ambient temperature, humidity, etc. I've been involved with the HIV/AIDS pandemic since the very first cases appeared on the wards in San Francisco hospitals in the early eighties. Guess how many cases I've seen of folks getting HIV infected from stepping on syringes. Exactly zero! Yep, that's right. None, nada, zip! Even when a healthcare provider gets stabbed and lacerated with a hollow-bored needle while working with a patient with advanced-stage AIDS (like yours truly), the chance of seroconverting to HIV positive is only 1 in 300! HIV really isn't all that easy to contract. I agree your fears are way out of proportion to any real degree of risk. Certainly the trio of OCD, lack of education and residual religious guilt about your sexual orientation play a role. I'm glad you are seeing a therapist. That is definitely the best way to confront and conquer old demons, fears and phobias. I'm sure your therapist is busy discussing issues like your gay, abusive, insane "daddy dearest" who tried to "beat the gay out of you" so you wouldn't turn out like him. (HBO might make a miniseries out of a family as dysfunctional as yours.) Nonetheless, you should also talk to your therapist about your HIV fears. So what would Dr. Bob say when these irrational HIV fears flash through your head? Well, using my best Tony Soprano impersonation, I'd say "fuhgeddaboutit!"

Finally, thanks for the marriage proposal. But hey, where is the ring??? Oh wait, I just remembered. I can't accept. No, it's not because of your gender or sexual orientation. I can't accept because I'm already legally married! Steve (Dr. Steve, the expert in The Body's Tratamientos forum) and I tied the proverbial know on Halloween just prior to the passage of the evil Proposition 8 in California. We are one of the 18,000 same-sex couples that can remain legally married in California. If I married you too, I'd have to become Mormon polygamist and that just will never ever happen for so many reasons.

Be well. Stay well.

Dr. Bob



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