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Indirect contact with blood
Nov 14, 2001

Yesterday, I was near a person who cut themself. I was trying to help them, did not touch them, but inadvertantly got a little smear of blood on my palm. I did not have any cuts on my hand but I do have dry skin. I do not know this persons status. I am FREAKING out! I scrubbed my hands up to my elbows with antibacterial soap. PLEASE HELP ME!

Response from Mr. Kull

Based on the epidemiological knowledge of HIV and its transmission, there is no evidence that HIV has been transmitted through casual contact. It's important to remember that HIV is only known to be transmitted through the following three ways:

1) Sexual contact: anal, vaginal, and oral sex

2) Blood-to-blood contact: sharing injection needles, occupational exposures, blood transfusions (which is rare in the U.S.). This does not include coming into contact with blood when helping a stranger.

3) Mother-to-infant: either through delivery or during breast feeding

Then think about the model for transmission: HIV infected fluids coming into contact with mucous membranes. Since the potentially HIV infected fluid (blood) came into contact with your skin (not a mucous membrane) then transmission can't occur. Intact skin forms a barrier against HIV.

Clearly it is advisable that people avoid coming into contact with blood when someone of unknown or positive status is bleeding. However, transmission is only possible if the blood were to have access to your immune system.

RMK



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