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Possible contraction through dish-washing?
Dec 11, 1998

Perhaps this is a sign of America's ignorance of this virus, but I have a question concerning a man I've met. He contracted HIV and since has had trouble finding work due to the stigma attached to his condition. He has asked me and my roomates for possible work to help him pay for the required medicines. Being college students, we can't afford much, but were thinking of offering him a job as a dishwasher in our home. As far as I know, contracting HIV through that type of contact is very unlikely. However, before we offer him this position, I would like to know more about the risks involved.

Response from Ms. Breuer

Hire him! He needs the work and you need the clean dishes. There is no risk of HIV transmission in the situation you describe, whether he washes the dishes, joins you for dinner, or even prepares the food. HIV is transmitted only through unprotected sex or needle-sharing with an infected person, receiving a contaminated blood product, or being born to an infected mother. Your question doesn't propose that any of those be part of the job. If he cuts himself while washing the dishes, he--and you--would need to take the precautions you would take around any human blood: avoid direct (skin) contact with it and clean it up with a disinfectant. But that would be true for an HIV negative dishwasher, too.

Nancy Breuer



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