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Thorn in my side

Jul 15, 2009

Dear Dr. Frascino,

Earlier this summer, I was working in Ethiopia and an odd event occurred and I would really appreciate any advice.

Two other students and myself went for a walk around the compound that we were staying and ran into a group of local children, who certainly were interested to see Ferengies (Foreigners) coming towards them. Naturally, the three of us decided then to climb the trees nearby, which led to the children scrambling up to join us amidst the welcoming refuge of acacia branches.

After this exercise in ascension, the children played a game that they have where they throw these plant seeds at each other (imagine a snowball fight type of game). Subsequently, they taught us how to pick the seeds without getting pricked by the thorns (Danger, danger!).

Unfortunately, I did scrape myself (two little cuts) walking by one of the protruding branches (around 5 10 minutes after the kids were near that area). Fortunately, it was a broken down branch with no seeds on it. Upon investigating the stick further (checking for blood, which there was none), I poked my thumb on my right-hand (though, it seemed to stop bleeding right away I also sucked on my thumb a little to clean it out. Also, it only bled out a little slit and it appeared to be covered). However, this is no real worry, as environmental transmission of HIV does not occur.

Would you agree with this conclusion?

They also played another game, with each team involving three people one of the fellows would ride on the shoulders of the other, then throw a shirt around the third person (almost like a harness for a horse) and would proceed to gallop around it certainly ranks as one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen.

What a wild time, culminating in high fives as a departing gesture.

Here lies the anxiety I had been having lately (exacerbated by malarone, which has anxiety as one of its side-effects), wondering if my right thumb was sealed (it had been around 5 10 minutes after poking it). This seems outrageous to even consider, as the kids would have had to have fresh blood on their hands, which certainly would have been noticeable on my palm afterwards. All things considered, there should be nothing to worry about (as casual contact, aka a high five, is not a risk either).

Furthermore, upon returning to the house, though I wasnt specifically checking for blood, it surely would have been noticeable when I went to wash my hands (the fact that it wasnt is fairly indicative of the fact that there is nearly a 100% chance that there was none). Also, when I washed both hands with an anti-septic towelette only the left hand cuts stung, the right thumb did not hurt at all (offering a fairly good indication that it was sealed).

Do you agree thus far?

I look forward to your thoughts on the matter, as I am worried about the matter. Would you advise an HIV test?

A bit of information that I figured you might like to know. At my university, I am the president of a humanitarian medical group that has donated over $16500 to an ongoing community-based care project in Malawi. An alternative way of looking at it, and the way that I certainly prefer, is that we have donated over 165 years of life (if we consider that HIV treatment per person per year is approximately $100).

Here's to keeping up the fight.

Hopefully everything is well.

In the name of human dignity, Mr. Living Well

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Mr. Living Well,

"Would you agree with this conclusion?" Yep! I certainly would!

". . . Casual contact, a k a high five, is not a risk either." Once again, I agree!

"Do you agree thus far?" Absolutely!

As for my "thoughts on the matter," They are identical to yours: no risk.

Would I advise an HIV test? No, of course not!

Congratulations on your humanitarian efforts in Malawi! My foundation is actively working in several African countries, but not yet in Malawi. If we all would just do our part, we could stop HIV/AIDS cold in its tracks. Thanks for doing your part and more!

Be well. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

Received oral cunnilingus from HIV positive man for 2-5 seconds

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