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HIV in body oil and apocrine sweat?
Mar 14, 2010

Hi Dr. Frascino, I am a medical student. I recently performed a physical examination on an AIDS patient, including palpating his axillary lymph node. Later, before I had a chance to wash my hand, I absentmindedly rubbed my eye with the finger that I examined his armpit with, because my eye had an itch. I immediately recognized my folly (and lack of hygiene) and washed my hands.

It is a well known doctrine that HIV is not present in saliva, eccrine sweat, and tears. But my question is: could HIV be transmitted via the viscous, smelly apocrine sweat material in the armpit? Also can HIV be transmitted through the various oils on the skin? I'm worried that a high concentration of virus might be present in the secretions of the AIDS patient's armpit, which I accidentally rubbed into my eye. I'm OCDing on this issue and it has kept me up all night and affected my day too! I've been searching for research on this question but I cannot find any research on HIV in apocrine armpit sweat, only regarding HIV (or the lack thereof) in the usual eccrine sweat.

Thank you for your time.

OCD medical student

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello OCD Med. Stud.,

Relax Max! Gosh, what are they teaching you guys in medical school these days? HIV is not transmitted by sweat, whether it's the slight glistening type on the forehead of a runway model or a sticky smelly type in the arm pits of an HIV positive triathlete! I suggest you ask your professors for a lecture or two on HIV-transmission basics. Chances are if you are confused your classmates are as well .

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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