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Open wounds and mucous membranes
Aug 15, 2005

Hi Brian! I'm a bit confused over two transmission possibilities of HIV. Many experts agree that an open wound coming in contact with infected semen or vaginal secretions very unlikely could lead to an infection. Considering that mucous membranes are not comparable with open wounds (they're not bleeding and they aren't gates to main blood streams) how is it possibile that the contact with infected fluids could lead to an infection? A doctor told me that absorbtion of the virus is principal way to infection. But absorbtion requires a long exposion to the virus and in the case of unprotected insertive vaginal sex for example the virus has very small chances to remain for a long time on the mucous membranes of the penis. So how it is possible? Thank you very much for your attention

Response from Dr. Conway

It is all a matter of degree. HIV is most efficiently transmitted when the virus comes into contact with a surface that contains the cells that are susceptible to HIV infection, and that these cells, once infected, have an easy access to the bloodstream. The longer the fluid containing the HIV can stay in contact with the susceptible cells, the better.

The open wound may contain susceptible cells. The access to the blood stream exists but is less plentiful than in the genital tract. The time of contact is generally shorter. So...the risk exists, but is much lower than for more conventional means of HIV transmission.


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