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peeling cuticle on finger. HIV from rinsing a needle?

Mar 23, 2013

I am an IDU, the other night I did not have a fresh needle and I came close to sharing one with a probable HIV infected individual(I should note I live in Dade county Florida, and it is illegal to buy syringes without a prescription here).

Anyways, before I began cleaning the needle I first examined it, there was no blood visible anywhere, in either the chamber or in the sheath that covers the needle tip. I first drew chlorox bleach (I do not know if it was diluted) into it twice and ejected it, (I would say it was approximately 15 seconds it was exposed to bleach). I then ran the tip of the needle in between my fingertips (to remove any residue) under vigorous cool tap water, and pulled the plunger out and rinsed that as well, lightly rubbing it with my finger tips under the water. About this time I realized what I was considering doing and threw the needle away and got the hell out of there. I do not know when the syringe was last used, only that it had not been used within the last 45 minutes or so.

Later that night I noticed that on my index finger my cuticle was peeling a little bit, and this got me thinking maybe I had acquired HIV when I rinsed the needle tip or the plunger under the water.

I have been reading all I can on HIV survival in syringes and I have found conflicting reports. I also read a study that showed that low levels of bleach exposure actually increase HIV infectivity? I am past the 72 hour PEP window, but I am wondering what the likelihood of transmission is in this manner.

Thank you for your help

Response from Dr. Hightow-Weidman

Hello there- First, I think you made the very wise choice of not using that needle to inject. That would have certainly been considered a high risk exposure for both HIV and Hepatitis. I would not consider what you described to put you at risk. You had no exposure of blood directly into any of your "mucous membranes". I would not consider a peeling cuticle an open lesion sufficient for HIV transmission. I'm not familiar with syringe availability in Florida but certainly clean syringes are optimal and perhaps it is worth the trip to another county? Hope that helps. Take care, LHW

Follow up question for Lisa Hightow-Weidman
HIv transmission through used beds, blankets and pillows

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