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Risk of HIV infection from dry cupping and scraping
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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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Risk of HIV infection from dry cupping and scraping

Dear Drs.,

Due to stiff neck, I went for massage and dry cupping on 27th March in a massage parlour.
I had about 14 cups on my body.

After I finished only did I found out that the shared cups were only boiled once every morning. In other words, they were not washed in between customers using them. The cups were used on a man just minutes before me.
The owner of the parlour said heat is administered into the cups and any bacteria would have been killed, and that there had not been any incident since he opened this parlour.

About two weeks prior from this, I went to another parlour for scraping. I am not sure if this is related, just writing it down here to see if this provides any useful information. I doubt the scraping wood was washed, but in my mind I felt that it was used on another person quite some time ago, hence I wasn't too paranoid.

Two days ago (6 April) I started feeling some itchiness in my throat. It further developed into a mild flu and fever.

I am very worried since I went to the parlour. I haven't been able to have sex with my BF. I told him my concerns and he is very understanding and comforted me.

Now with this flu and fever, I am all the more paranoid.

What are the chances of infection? And when should I have a test?

Thanks very much.
Welcome to the forum.

I see no reason for concern here.  For readers not familiar with the practice, I will explain my understanding of cupping, a practice in a number of Asian cultures (and perhaps others).  Cups of metal, ceramic, glass et are heated, then placed on the skin, often with a lubricant like massage oil as a seal.  As the cups cool, so does the air inside them, exerting a suction on the skin; that suction is considered a form of massage, i.e. tissue stimulation.  In some cultures, cupping is a form of folk medicine, believed to be beneficial for various illnesses.

Properly done, cupping does not break the skin. Therefore, even if used on a massage customer with HIV or other blood borne infection (e.g., hepatitis B or C), there should be no risk of contamination of the cups.  In addition, these are fragile viruses:  the amount of heat need to make the suction work would be plenty high to kill any virus present.  However, I do not know the "scraping" practice at all.  But if it does not result in bleeding, you can be confident there is no risk for HIV or other blood borne viruses.

In summary, I see absolutely no health risk in the events you describe.  Probably nobody in the world ever caught HIV from cupping or scraping; the only way HIV is transmitted in massage parlors is by unprotected vaginal or anal sex.  Almost certainly your symptoms are due to some garden variety respiratory virus or influenza, and not HIV.  If I were in a situation like yours, I would continue unprotected sex with my wife with no fear of infecting her, and I would not get tested for HIV or anything else.

But if you just can't get these fears out of your head, the only answer is to have an HIV test.  Depending on the specific tests available in your doctor's office or clinic, you can have conclusive testing 4-8 weeks after the potential exposures; for more details on this, see the thread linked below:

In the meantime, don't worry.  In addition to all the reasons above that I am confident you weren't infected, I'll give you one more statistic:  in the thousands of threads in the 9 years since this forum started, nobody has ever reported catching HIV from an exposure they were worried about.  You aren't going to be the first.  If and when that happens, it will surely be from a standard high risk exposure, like unprotected vaginal or anal sex -- not from a minor event like the ones you have described.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD
Dear Dr. Handsfield,

Thank you very much for your rational analysis. I am feeling much better now.

The scraping I had earlier does not seem to break any skin, I am not worried about that.

For the benefit of future forum members with similar issues, scraping is also a kind of massage by administering pressured strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth edge. The smooth edge can be a ceramic spoon, animal horn, jade or even coin.
Thanks for the thanks; I'm glad to have helped.  Also thanks for the education on scraping!
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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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