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Hair-Weaving Fright!
Nov 9, 2011

I have a question that has been eating at me for a few days, but perhaps itâs nothing. I just want to get a professional opinion regarding my risk level in a situation which occurred recently.

I dabble in hairdressing, and the other day, I was sewing in my friendâs weave, which basically means sewing (with brand new needle and thread) hair extensions onto horizontal cornrows braided tightly into the recipientâs hair. Obviously nobody wants to get hurt while getting her hair done, so I always try to be very careful with my sewing, and go slow and precise. I made sure not to poke my friend the whole time, but just a few stitches before completion, I may have poked her a bit with the needle, as I felt some resistance on the tip. I pulled it out and felt a little resistance again, like the needle had been stuck under the top layer of skin on the scalp. I asked if I hurt her, and she said she didnât feel anything, nor do I remember her jerking, like youâd expect from someone who gets poked with a little pin. However, she has a high pain tolerance, and perhaps she just didnât want to hurt my feelings by admitting Iâd hurt her. I finished the few remaining stitches and knotted off the thread. Now, Iâm worried that perhaps I did poke her, and then I subsequently poked myself, resulting in the potential for viral transmission. In the many stitches before the one I thought I may have poked her with, I balanced the needle in my fingers to push it through the hair, braids, extension glue, and extension wefts, and grabbed the tip to pull the needle through. Basically, handling it like anyone would when sewing. This does include touching the sides of the tip of the needle. Iâm fairly certain I must have poked the first layer or two of skin on my fingers when doing this, but certainly never enough to really be painful. I checked my fingers afterwards, and saw no blood spots or anything to indicate a poke. I did notice a few spots where the top layer of skin had peeled back in a little line, probably in the spots where I had grasped the needle, and maybe a few tiny white areas of loose skin where the very tip of the sewing needle had pushed through the top layer of skin while I used it. (A few days later, I grabbed a new sewing needle from my own craft box, and tried poking at my finger to replicate what I felt while sewing to see if it would break through any layer of skin other than the top. Although I felt minor pokes, I never drew blood, and left only nigh-invisible marks of upturned skin layers. I apologize for how how compulsive this must be...) This got me thinking that maybe I poked her multiple times, and although I didnât see any obvious pokes that bled on my fingers, and didnât feel any painful needle pokes, maybe I did receive needle pokes that drew blood and I just didnât register them at the time or notice them later. So, say that I did poke my friend with the sewing needle while sewing in her hair extensions, and then immediately poked myself. Would this be a risk for HIV of Hep C? It would have been a solid sewing needle. I have heard from various sites that sewing needles are not vectors for the transmission of HIV, but this is probably when sewing fabrics, not sewing extensions directly onto the tight cornrows on someoneâs head, right? I feel that this would be more akin to a suture needle exposure. Iâve tried to tell myself that the chance of transmitting HIV via a needlestick from a needle used on a known HIV+ individual is still only 1 in 300, and since I donât know if I even poked her, and donât think I poked myself and drew blood, my chances from this situation would be lower, but I still believe I had some degree of risk. I checked Medhelp, and the knowledgeable people there believe transmission in this manner would be impossible, since even if there was an unlikely blood transfer, the extremely miniscule amount left on the very tip of the needle after a poke from sewing would not be enough to transmit HIV.

My friend may be at risk of HIV or Hep C, since she once took a friendâs lip ring out of his lip and put it into her brand new lip piercing, and so I must admit I am worried. I had actually had the second of my twice-yearly HIV test two days before this situation, which was negative, and so Iâm very upset that I have a new situation to worry about so soon after feeling relief at my results. In your opinion, was I at all at risk in this situation? I do believe I sustained some tiny needle pokes, but I am pretty sure they only got through the very tip-top layer of skin, as I never saw any blood during/directly after sewing or scabs in the hours/days following the incident. Should I get tested again in 3 months? Iâm agonizing over this. Please help.

Response from Mr. Cordova

Hi there:

In my opinion, no you were not at risk. It's likely that the resistance you felt was not her scalp being poked but probably the weave, glue, or the resistance from going through the cornrows. That being said, even if you had poked her, don't you think you would have felt it if you had poked yourself? I know every time I try to sew something, I usually end up poking myself once or twice and I always feel it.

There is no need to get tested because of this. You can wait until your next six month test.

In health, Richard



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