My doctor says yes, but Dr. Bob says no!


Hi Doctor Bob,

It's the irrational girl from Los Angeles, again. I had wrote to you before about the nitrous oxide balloon game that I played on 8/21/10. I had asked if sharing a balloon was a risk in contracting HIV. You mentioned that my fears are unwarranted, that HIV cannot be transmitted via a balloon even if I shared it with someone who had bleeding gums or an open mouth sore. You also assured me that my Kaiser Permanente doctor was wrong about HIV been spread via saliva.

So today I had a physical exam with my primary care physician. I asked her if HIV is transmitted via saliva and to my surprise she said "YES." So once again, I'm confused. I know you stated that visible fresh blood in saliva from an HIV+ person could "theoretically" be infective. You also mentioned that the balloon would have to be a "bloody mess" to be considered a risk. That kind of through me off, too. It's like you're saying "yes, sorta, in a way maybe not".

So what's my point? Who should I believe, you or my primary care physician? Sigh.

Well one thing is certain...Should I be the first person (on record) to contract HIV via a nitrous balloon, well let's just say you'll see/ hear about me in the news, talk shows, etc. I would dedicate my life to educate myself, peers, and youth about HIV/AIDS.

I know that my concerns seem borderline "mental" to those who are highly educated and trained on HIV transmission, but my fear is very real to me.

Today is exactly 9 weeks since the party...I had blood drawn at the Kaiser lab. PLEASE keep me in your thoughts.

Best, Vanessa


Hello Vanessa,

One wonders if your doctors obtained their degrees off eBay. Vanessa, my assessment has not changed. I assume your primary care physician is not an HIV physician specialist with over a quarter of a century of experience in the field, right? Well, I am. So the choice of whom to believe is up to you. (Actually, this isn't a question of belief but rather of scientific fact!) I'd suggest if you want to get on Oprah, you find another way, because "HIV Positive Balloon-Girl" will never ever become a reality.

Dr. Bob

RE: Can HIV be transmitted via a nitrous balloon? Oct 15, 2010

Dr. Bob,

Thank you much for the prompt reply and comforting words.

Really, no chance of catching HIV via a nitrous balloon? Not even if I shared a balloon with someone who had bleeding gums or an open mouth sore? I'm confused. My doctor at Kaiser says that the virus IS transmitted via saliva. Can you kindly elaborate?

By the way, I read your profile...WOW! You're amazing! I will be mailing a donation by end of day.

Best, Vanessa

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Vanessa,

Yes, really! You can not acquire HIV from a nitrous oxide balloon, (even if you shared it with someone with bleeding gums or mouth sores).

Your Kaiser doctor told you HIV is transmitted via saliva and you want me to elaborate? Hmm. OK, Here ya go. Your Kaiser doctor is wrong. Is that elaborate enough? If you need a more detailed scientific answer, saliva does contain HIV, but not at concentrations high enough to result in viral transmission. Saliva that contains visible fresh blood from an HIV-positive person could theoretically be a risk for transmission. The nitrous balloon would have to be a bloody mess before it would be considered a risk, OK?

Thanks for your donation to The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation ( Now stop worrying!

Dr. Bob

Can HIV be transmitted via a nitrous balloon? Oct 14, 2010

Hi Doctor,

I attended a "rave" like party on 8/21/10. At this party, nitrous balloons were being passed around. I took several hits...And now I am wondering if there is any chance I can get HIV from sharing a balloon. My concern is that I have a tooth filling that fell out...So if shared a balloon with an HIV infected person, could the virus enter through my tooth?

I took an oral HIV test at Planned Parenthood on 9/30/10. It was negative.

I tested for other STD's, negative too. Pap smear was normal.

I have not had unprotected sex since 11/14/09. My fiance was a virgin, and we have never had unprotected sex.

I have read that HIV is not transmitted via saliva, but I'm wondering if there is any chance of infection if I shared a balloon with someone that perhaps had an open mouth sore, etc. Am I paranoid or is this a valid concern?

I made myself quite sick for 11 days prior to testing. I didn't eat, sleep, suffered anxiety attacks, nightmares, etc. You would think that after I got my negative test results I would be relieved, on the contrary, I began questioning the accuracy of the HIV oral rapid test. And now I find myself crying and feeling nervous all the time. Please help.

Best, Vanessa

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Vanessa,

A rave where everyone sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks? Hmm. Well, at least it's safer than loads of other party favors passed around at raves.

Your concerns about STD/HIV via nitrous oxide balloons is unwarranted. The risk is nonexistent. Neither worry nor HIV testing is warranted. If my reassurance isn't sufficient for you to shake your irrational fears, consider getting help from your doctor for anxiety. HIV is definitely not your problem!

Dr. Bob