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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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Dr. HHH, EWH,

I recently received one of those scary email forwards where someone talks about some HIV-infected hollow needles hidden under gas pumps handles and people getting stuck by them who then test positive after that. From what I understand it's a myth and I've heard it years ago too. But even if someone would do something like that, it still wouldn't be a concern because, from what I understand, the virus dies after the exposure to air and so whatever blood is left on the tip of the needle if harmless and unless someone actually pumps whatever stays inside of the needle deep into the tissue - there's no way that a transmission could occur; which basically means that transmission in such bizarre scenario is not possible. Am I correct?

Thank you.
239123_tn?1267651214
Welcome to the forum.

I'm not sure what you mean in referring to a "myth".  I have never heard of anyone intentionally hiding HIV infected injection equipment in gas pump handles, or anywhere else.  I'm discounting that part of your question as nonsense -- at a minimum, far too rare to worry about it.

That said, there are valid reasons why HIV transmission might occur through injury with a used drug injection needle.  However, as you suggest yourself, the needle would have to be freshly contaminated, i.e. with wet blood, and used by an HIV infected person within the previous several hours.

Despite the theoretical possibility of such transmission, to my knowledge there has never been a confirmed case of anyone acquiring HIV by injury with drug injection equipment in the environment -- whether in a gas pump, stepped on in a park or on the beach, etc.  Every HIV infection by drug equipment has occurred by self-injection of drugs.

In other words, the scenario you describe isn't impossible -- but it's so unlikely that it should be ignored.

Regards--  HHH, MD
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