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possibly stepped on a needle. very very worried college student

Dec 8, 2010

Hi Dr. Bob, first of all I think you are quite good at what you do on this site. I am very very scared about an incident however and I was wondering if you could provide me with some information. I have read a lot of forums on environmental needle sticks but I am still extremely frightened. I was walking downtown in my city last night with a couple of friends and we crossed a rather dark alley. While crossing the alley, I felt a strange sensation in my foot (slight sting sensation perhaps). I was wearing boots at the time but the soles were kind of rubbery. If I stepped on a hypodermic needle/syringe that was positioned vertically in the ground by a drug user could I get hiv from it if the needle somehow went all the way through my shoe? I didn't feel anything go through the bottom my boot but a needle would be so thin that I probably wouldn't have noticed it. So I kept walking and didn't examine the ground. I couldn't find a puncture mark and didn't see any blood about an hour later. I figure that a needle would have broken off into my shoe but I didn't see one in it. I also didn't get PEP because I didn't see any blood and because it might not have been a needle at all (I have a hypochondria tendency). If it was a needle but did not any draw blood or leave a visible mark, is there still a risk? One of my parents is a physician and has tried to reassure me that if I didn't bleed than I couldn't have gotten anything but it hasn't really helped. Now I'm afraid I could end up seroconverting a year later if it was indeed a needle that was contaminated with hiv and hepatitis. What sort of tests should I go through to rule out infections early on. I'm afraid this scare is going to affect the rest of my college career and my life. Thank you for your time and expertise.

Response from Dr. Frascino


You actually think a psychotic drug-using dope fiend would position a syringe full of fresh HIV-tainted blood in a vertical position in a dark alley way, assuming some clumsy kid would step on it and get HIV infected? Hmm. You have a very vivid imagination.

Relax Max. Your fears are unwarranted. I can assure you drug users have a few more important things to worry about (like food, shelter and their next fix) than trying to murder clueless coeds! Besides, the chances of a syringe getting through the rubber soles of your boots and into your foot without your really feeling it are beyond remote. PEP was certainly not warranted!

As for your fears of late seroconversion, these are equally Looney Tunes. With such outlandish and completely unwarranted worries, I would suggest you consider getting psychotherapy (counseling). Your problem is not HIV, but rather an irrational fear of HIV.

You report you "have a hypochondria tendency." I agree, except you can leave off the "tendency" part.

Stop worrying and if you can't get help for your HIV paranoia. Without treatment, this type of condition often worsens over time. You can read many stories in the archives of this forum of folks completely paralyzed by irrational fear of HIV. Don't become one of them, OK?

Good luck. Happy Holidays.

Dr. Bob

Help me pleasee...donated $80 to your charity
Faint line on test

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