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HIV Transmission From Patient with Nondetectable Viral Load
May 12, 1997

Mr. Sowadsky, I recently shared a needle with a friend of mine who has learned that he is HIV positive. He knew prior to the incident and says that my risk is minimal due to the fact the he has an "undetectable" viral load. Is this true? What's the current thinking?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

If you shared a needle with this person, you are still considered at significant risk of infection with HIV. The fact that his viral load was "below detectable levels" merely means your risk was lower, than if you had shared a needle from a person with a high viral load. But "lower" risk is NOT the same as "low" risk. You should now assume that you, too, are infected with HIV. I strongly suggest that you get tested for HIV to determine if you are infected. Remember, it can take up to 6 months for an HIV antibody test to detect an HIV infection. I also strongly recommend you get tested for the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses, which can be even higher risk than HIV.

My next suggestion is that you do not share needles with anyone. By sharing needles, you and your needle-sharing partners become at high risk for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and so forth. If you must share needles, it's important that you clean your needles. To clean your needles: Rinse the syringe with tap water twice. Squirt the water down the sink each time.

Rinse the syringe twice with full-strength liquid bleach. Shake the syringe for 30 seconds each time. Then squirt the bleach down the drain each time.

Rinse the syringe again with tap water twice. Squirt the water down the sink each time.

For more information on the issue of viral loads below detectable levels, see the question, "AFFECT OF MAGIC'S WIFE'S REVELATION THAT MAGIC HAS BEEN CURED".

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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