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Viral Load in Wound Drainage

Apr 12, 2014

Hi. I am a nurse who recently had an exposure and I am wondering the likelihood of acquiring HIV. I was irrigating a wound with clear drainage on an HIV/AIDS patient. The wound was on his coccyx. When I sprayed the wound cleanser, one drop landed on my cheek. What I did next was the problem. I removed my gloves, washed my hands and then wiped my cheek with wet/soapy hand and then continued to wash my hands, dry them with a paper towel and dry my cheek. I have numerous hangnails around my fingers (none actively bleeding). I am worried about the HIV entering through a hangnail around my fingers. The first doctor I talked to said it was virtually impossible and didn't even order any tests. Is this right?

Response from Dr. Young

Hello and thanks for posting.

I agree with your healthcare provider: I think that your exposure risk was negligible.

The first and most important factors about risk are is the source patient on medications or not- and if so, was his or her viral load detectable? If not, then the risk is essentially zero. One study shows that even unprotected sexual intercourse yields very low or no risk of transmission in patients with undetectable viral loads.

If in doubt, you should have HIV antibody testing around the time of the exposure and, of course, HIV testing is recommended as part of routine medical care for all people.

Hope that helps, BY

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