HIV - Prevention Expert Forum
Hiv transmission
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This forum is limited to prevention of HIV and to safe sex in general. All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Hiv transmission

Hi Doctor,

I posted almost a year ago about my wife being concerned about dried blood and I am back again to get your assurance as to "calm" my wife down
She has a SEVERE hiv phobia. It started during her pregnancy with our son. She works in healthcare and some guy basically started bleeding on her and it set her in to a cycle of worry ,even after multiple hiv tests (all which have been negative).
However, we are planning on baby as a precaution she wants to get tested next month. Its been 9 months since her last test. The therapist agreed that it was a responsible choice and she is going the first week in march.  (But now she is freaking out about the actual blood draw) its like she needs something to worry about

So I have a few questions and I am hoping you can help (and I apologize for the long post)

1. The needles labcorp uses are bd eclipse vacutainer with tamper evident seals.  I called bd (yes she made me) and they stated that at the end of production once everything is boxed and packaged they use cobalt radiation to sterilize the needles.  So the question is, if someone were to bleed during the process of making the needle and they had HIV, would the sterilization completely destroy the virus, even if it was inside the barrel of the needle?

2. And lastly I scraped up dried blood off are bathroom floor.  I wasn't sure it was blood at the time. (I'm still now sure) but according to my wife anything in the red family is blood.  She is concerned it could have been from the cleaning ladies. If it was, the time between me scraping the blood up and when it got on the floor was atleast 8 hours.   I don't have any open cuts, just damaged cuticles.  She wants me to get tested before we start trying.  Do you believe this precaution is necessary?  
Welcome to the Forum. Your wife's fears are groundless as I will explain below using the same order for my responses as you have used for your questions.

1.  The sterilization process you describe would certainly kill any virus or other infectious agent, including HIV present should the needles be contaminated.  The fact however is that I suspect that nearly all of the needle production and packaging process is done by machine and that few humans touch the needles at all.  Further, I can tell you that literally millions of these needles are produced each year, yet there has NEVER been a case of HIV transmitted in the way you suggest.

2.  The HIV virus is a fragile virus that begins to die on contact with the air.  Had the blood you scraped from the floor been contaminated with HIV (VERY unlikely) the virus would not have survived..  

Having said that there is no risk from either of the scenarios you describe. I would urge her to talk through her fears with a mental health professional.  As she moves forward through pregnancy she will regularly be in health care settings where blood is drawn and where others have had their blood drawn as well.  I urge you (her) to be proactive in addressing her fears.  
Thanks doctor! I appreciate your response.  She is seeing a therapist weekly and was doing much much better when she was on Meds, but came off them for this future pregnancy.  I'm hoping we can get through the next 10 months, get her back on Meds (because they really did work) and put these fears to rest!  
Many thanks
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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
Seattle, WA
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