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Coffee girlfriend seeks your wisdom
Aug 20, 2011

Hi Dr.

First off, I love you! If I am ever rich and famous, I want to take you on fancy trips around the world and listen to your words of wisdom. Anyway, I just have a quick question and I hope you can allay my fears with your answer. My boyfriend works in a busy cafe, and is always getting scrapes, nicks, and cuts on his arms and hands, as do his multiple coworkers. There really is no way to avoid this, since it is such a high-paced job and everyone is always rushing around. These wounds are generally fairly small, and most of the time are not regarded as serious enough to warrant a covering like a band-aid. Trouble is, my boyfriends coworker just told him that she has an immune deficiency, and that is why she is sick so often. I immediately worried about the possibility of her immune deficiency being due to HIV. I know for a fact that she often has cuts and scrapes that bleed a bit and are not covered, since they are deemed unimportant (this also happens to my boyfriend, and I assume all his fellow baristas). I know HIV is not said to be transmitted via casual contact, and certainly most people have cuts and scrapes on their hands every day from daily activities, but I am also aware that any contact between non-intact skin poses a risk for HIV transmission. So, although my boyfriends contact with this girl is casual and just at work, if they both had fresh scrapes and they came into contact via a bump or handing an item to each other, would HIV transmission be possible? It is impossible to not touch people in the workplace, but it is also unrealistic to have multiple bandages on the hands and arms to cover the type of accidental small wounds everyone gets every day. So, all this being said, do I have anything to worry about with regards to my boyfriend working in close quarters with this possibly virally-enhanced coworker? If their new little nicks and scrapes somehow touched, would transmission realistically occur? Finally, should I ask him to be tested and wear a bandage over every little cut or scrape he ever gets?

Thanks so much for your help and your consistent humor in the face of all the silly questions you get!

Coffee Girlfriend

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hey, Coffee Girlfriend.

You love me and want to take me on fancy trips around the world??? Uh-oh! Not sure either your barista boyfriend or my legally-wedded spouse would be in favor of that (wink).

Regarding the barista boyfriend, his HIV risk from the nicks and scrapes you describe coming into contact with an immune deficient coworker who has similar nicks and scrapes is completely nonexistent. Gosh, if HIV were transmitted that easily, it would have wiped out the planet (or at least all those hyper-caffeinated coffee shop denizens) long ago.

I see no reason for concern, HIV testing or multiple bandages!

So in place of an exotic trip around the globe, could you maybe arrange for your barista boyfriend to whip me up a large nonfat vanilla cappuccino?

Be well. Ciao bella!

Dr. Bob



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