Husband Dentist Exposed to HIV on Job Yesterday

Question

Dr. Bob, My husband is a dentist and was exposed to HIV while drilling a patient's tooth. Blood/saliva squirted into his eye (he was not wearing his protective eyewear. The patient was HIV positive (as noted in his file, which my husband did not check until after he was done working on the patient.

He was worried about his risk so he went to his doctor and was given PEP. We had unprotected sex the same night he was exposed (last night). He told me there was no way he could transmit the virus to me even if he was infected because it had been less than 10 hours since he was exposed.

After he came home today with PEP, I asked him what his doctor said about my risk, since we had had unprotected sex the night before. He said he did not ask his doctor because he knows that there would be no way he could've passed it on to me because of the short time he had been exposed. He said the doctor would have looked at him like he was stupid, since they both know so much about how the disease progresses. I feel very uncomfortable with this answer and want to know if I am being put at risk, what my risk is, and if I should be put on PEP. Please help me.

Sincerely, Concerned wife

Answer

Hello Concerned Wife,

Your husband told you "the doctor would have looked at him like he was stupid, since they both know so much about how the disease progresses"???? Hmm. One wonders why the same doctor didn't give him a similar look for not following universal precautions when working on a patient! Now that's what is really stupid (or at least inexcusably careless!).

Your chances of acquiring HIV from your careless (and inconsiderate) husband are essentially nonexistent (assuming he's had no other occupational exposures, including those he may not have even recognized or considered due to his lax standards for preventing the transmission of blood-borne pathogens). If, however, you want additional reassurance, just call your husband's doctor directly and ask his opinion. (He has most likely taken a thorough history and has more details about your husband's case than I do.) Hopefully this entire experience will serve as a wakeup call for your husband.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob