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Infection by test??
Jul 17, 2001

Hi Dr. Kull,

I recently tested negative 14 weeks after a fairly low-risk exposure. I'm planning to do a follow-up test at 24 weeks just for my own peace of mind. However, when I had the original test done at the clinic, I did not actually see the lab tech get a fresh needle out of a package, and I cannot remember if I saw him uncap it or not. This has started to cause me tremendous anxiety that he used the dirty needle from the previous patient (who went in right before me) to draw my blood. This leads me to two questions I have for you:

1) Is there any evidence that this sort of thing has happened, or is even likely to happen? I'd like to think that a lab tech who spends his entire day testing for HIV would know better than to use a dirty needle, but people are careless and you just never know.

2) My follow-up test at 24 weeks happens to be 10 weeks after this possible needle-stick exposure. If I receive a negative result, do you think I can assume the needle was clean and move on, or do I have to be tested again to be sure?

I realize my fears are most likely unfounded, but this is causing me a lot of stress. I was prepared to put this incident behind me, and now I don't want to worry that I was infected through an HIV test and have to go through this process all over again. The irony is unbelievable. Thanks, Dr. Kull.

Response from Mr. Kull

1) In the United States, there are no documented cases of HIV transmission occuring through getting blood drawn. It is highly unlikely that a lab tech would reuse needles.

2) Getting tested again is absolutely unecessary. If you thought that getting your blood drawn was exposing you to HIV, it's possible that you will believe that every time you get tested.

It is true that you just never know, but how comfortable you are with the unknowns in the world, especially with highly unusual or unlikely events, seems like an important thing for you to analyze right now. If you can accept the results as they stand and move on, then more power to you. If you find that your anxiety continues to make you question your HIV results and causes disruption in your day-to-day life, you may benefit from a consultation with a mental health professional.

RMK



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