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FRESH Open Cut & Under Fingernails

Dec 5, 1996

First, thank you for this kind and helpful service... I was truly surprised that many others had similar questions to mine, but I still am concerned about something...I also wound up drunk in a times square peep place. I wound up (only for a few seconds) fingering one of the ladies. I had no visible cuts on my fingers, but had clipped my fingernails earlier in the day (about six hours previous). What about that flesh underneath the fingernails that may get caught and clipped too? Can this be a portal of entry? There really isnt any blood, but there is a soreness and sensitivity and perhaps a miniscule laceration. Also, after reading many of the questions and your answers I see you often mention FRESH Open Cut - How long after a cut is it no longer fresh? Please help. Thank you

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

Any breakdown in the integrity of the skin can allow HIV to enter the bloodstream. This includes cuts, or things like dermatitis. For cuts, once a scab forms (usually within a few hours), this would no longer be an access to the bloodstream. Of course, the deeper the cut, or the more severe the damage to the skin, the longer it will take for healing to take place.

Fingering is normally not a high risk activity for HIV. All anyone can say is that if there is a fresh open cut on the finger (see above), then there would be some risk of infection if the womans vaginal secretions/menstrual blood had a direct access to that opening. But the risk is less than intercourse or giving oral sex. That's all anybody could ever say on this issue. It is normally a low risk activity for HIV.

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

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