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Different type of question
Apr 25, 2010

Hi Dr Bob, I visit your site a lot and read the different questions and learn from that. I I normally dont writing in with questions. But I have a different type of question in a way. Has there been a documented case of transition of the virus by hand contact (touching, high fives, etc) on record and what is the real risk of getting this virus from that kind of contact. Why I ask --- every time I ask they (hot lines) read the answer off piece of paper (standard answer --- contact with open cuts, sores, etc) with no idea what they are reading. Thats why I am writing you. I notice you answer every question personally and with feeling and being an expert in this field I am asking this question.

Thank you And God Bless Rosemary

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Rosemary,

No, there have been no "documented cases" of HIV transmission from handshakes or high-fiving. As you might imagine, it would be extremely difficult to "document" such a transmission! However, what we know from the intense epidemiological study of HIV transmission for nearly 30 years is that HIV is not transmitted by casual contact.

There is a theoretical risk of transmitting the virus if an adequate amount of fresh HIV-tainted blood were to come into contact with an open wound. But just to give you an idea of how difficult it is to transmit HIV this way, consider the case of a health care worker who sustains a deep puncture wound and laceration while working on a patient with advance-stage AIDS. The risk that health care worker will contract HIV is 1 in 300! That doesn't mean it can't happen. In fact that exact scenario happened to me in January 1991, and I did seroconvert to HIV positive. However, the vast majority of similarly severe occupational exposures to HIV-tainted blood do not lead to HIV transmission.

Bottom line: Go ahead and high five without worry of HIV, OK?

Dr. Bob



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