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Avatar universal


Hello All,

I've been referred here from the HIV prevention forum. After getting blood drawn(in the USA), I've had severed anxiety that a needle may have been re-used exposing me to a virus such as HIV. Moderators on that forum said I had no risk, however, I then read articles stating that a Palo Alto nurse re-used needles on patients over a 5 year period. Here's a link to that article:


Anyone out there ever suffer HIV/infectious anxiety and have any suggestions for dealing with it? Thanks for your time!
7 Responses
370181 tn?1428180348
Since you have already been assesed for your risk on our HIV Prevention Forum, then YOU HAD NO RISK.

As for the link to the article by the nurse who re-used needles, I won't even bother reading it. There are always going to be unethical people out there somewhere. Fortunately for all of us, they are few and far between and quite rare.

There are millions of people out here with HIV infection anxiety, you are SO not alone. I work in a hospital and the lab people have told me that many people are bringing their own spikes now. Now THAT is paranoid.

The very best way to deal with your anxiety and conquer your fear of HIV/AIDS is to EDUCATE yourself. Once you learn the facts about HIV and just how difficult it is to become infected, you will not be so fearful and paranoid.......I promise. Ignorance (which does NOT mean stupidity) about this virus is far more virulent than the virus itself.

And stay away from all the websites that basically do nothing but reinforce the fear. To get the most up to date and true facts, go to websites like the Mayo Clinic, The Cleaveland Clinic, the CDC, the NIH (National Institute of Health) or contact your local HIV/AIDS Hotline. They have information they can send you. But one of the very best places you could begin your education is on the HIV Prevention Forum right here. Spend some time every day reading the posts and your eyes will definitely be opened. And don't forget to read the profiles of the people giving out that advice. Especially Teak and Lizzie Lou.

Even if the needle used to draw your blood had been used on an HIV+ person before you, air would have gotten into the syringe and rendered the virus inactive. It takes only seconds of exposure to air to kill the virus. So unless you and this infected person were sitting as close together as possible, if both of you had your sleeves drawn up, if both your arms were tied off (the rubber tape that causes your veins to swell) and you had one hell of a lightening quick phlebotomist who could draw the infected persons blood, put it into a test tube, then spin around like a ninja needle freak, and draw blood from you...........your risk would still be ZERO. The virus would have been exposed to air long enough to die.

Your last recourse, if you can't deal with this on your own, is to get into therapy.
I wish you the best.
Avatar universal

Thank you very much for your detailed response. I really appreciate you taking the time to assess my situation. As per your advice, I spent the last couple hours reading over the HIV prevention forum and feel much more educated(And less stressed). That definitely helped. One last question for you if I may. Based on what you said about about me possibly sitting next to an infected person and having a blood draw, I know this DID NOT happen so I feel much better, however, from what I have read, people can become infected when sharing drug needles. If the virus is rendered inactive so quickly once exposed to air, then how come they have a risk of virus transmission and I don't? Thanks!!

370181 tn?1428180348
I thought it might be more educational if you read the answer to your question by one of THE most reknowned HIV writers in this country. I can explain it, but not as well as this guy.

Thanks for all your kind words. I'm not sure if I blushed or had a hot flash!

I'm glad you are spending time reading on the HIV Prevention Forum. It's an absolute gold mine of up to date information. I do hope you read Teaks profile. The man knows his stuff and comes across pretty gruff at times, but over the years we've become friends and he has a heart the size of Texas.

This could be more information than you wanted, but when it comes to education I believe you can never have enough. I hope this helps.

Really nice talking to you.

Answered by Nicolas Sheon, HIV InSite Prevention Editor

Question One

I would like to know what the chances of transmitting HIV through a needle. A scenario exists where a person sticks a needle into another with tainted blood and injects some of it into the other person. I want to know if the other person can be infected this way. This is not a situation of sharing a drug needle, etc. Thank you for your service and advice.

Question Two

I used a needle that had been used by my room-mate two weeks ago. I washed it with soap and water. What are the chances of getting infected from this needle?


There are two answers depending on what you mean by "needle." If you mean the kind used for sewing, this is very different from a needle attached to a syringe. A sewing needle would not be able to transmit HIV very easily because the tiny bit of blood left on the needle would be exposed to oxygen and low temperatures. HIV cannot survive outside the body unless it is sealed within a container. Therefore, a pin *****, like the malicious cases reported in India, even if they were tainted with HIV, would be an extremely inefficient means of infection. Even health care workers who are stuck with needles and medical instruments have a very low rate of infection (only 0.3%).

If, however, you are talking about a syringe, the scenario you describe would be similar to sharing a drug needle and would be a very efficient means of transmitting HIV and other diseases. What makes it risky is that blood from the infected person is drawn up into the syringe and then injected into the next person. The more blood transfused in this way, the greater the risk of infection. When injecting a substance into the body using a syringe, both health care workers and drug users will insert the needle and then pull back on the plunger to see if they have hit a vein. Even when injecting a vaccine into an arm or the butt muscle, health care workers routinely pull back to make sure they are not in a vein. When they are aiming for a vein they do the same thing to make sure they are in fact in the vein. Either way, this means that blood enters the syringe and several microliters will probably remain in the tip of the syringe after the syringe is emptied. For drug injectors, this blood residue can also infect the water and the cotton which are often shared when "cooking" the drug mixture.

In an ideal world, the best way to avoid contamination would be to dispose of the needles so they are never used again. Because needles are scarce, thanks to the ban on federal funding of needle exchange, most needle exchange programs can only afford a one-for-one exchange. As a result, many needles are reused by the same person and many are shared with, or "rented," to others.

In Geneva, last month I ran into, Robert Heimer, an expert on the viability of HIV inside syringes. I asked him how long the virus could remain infectious in a used syringe. Inside the hermetically sealed syringe, HIV can remain viable for up to 36 days, depending on the type of syringe and the amount of virus it contained to begin with. Syringes with detachable needles, your basic insulin needle and the most common type exchanged by needle exchange programs, can contain about 20 microliters of residual blood. In syringes with fixed needles the residue is only about one microliter, and as a result, HIV doesn't last as long in the fixed needle syringes.

Avatar universal

I did read Teak's profile. He does seem very, very educated and that is great to know!!! Same goes for Lizzie Lou.

Let me first start by saying WOW you are AWESOME!!! Thank you so much for providing me with all this wonderful information. I really believe all this education has helped ease my fears. It's one thing to be TOLD I have no risk, but when someone actually EXPLAINS it, I feel so much better. If you could explain one more thing to me that would be great...

I guess I'm still confused on the difference between a blood draw and an injection. In my case, I had blood drawn. The scenario described by the author above references an injection. Going back to the scenario that a needle was re-used on me and had been previously used on an HIV+ patient, this needle would have been used for a DRAW rather than an injection. As you stated any blood that still remained on the needle/syringe would have become inactive (rather than dead, as HIV is either active or inactive; not dead or alive) and would not be able to infect me. However, is it possible that if the needle was used on an HIV+ patient and then accidentally re-used on me that that persons blood could still be present in the needle used to do the blood draw? Then if that same needle was put into my vein the blood that was still present in the needle, while being in my arm, could have mixed with my blood and infected me? Thanks for the clarification!!!

Once again, thank you for all your generous help!!!

370181 tn?1428180348
You really got me, Major. You were good, I'll give you that. You came across quite normal, intelligent even. So much so that I broke my own #1 rule which is to check the HIV Prevention Forum and see if the poster has been warned off over there. Guess where I went and what I found when you just HAD to ask that one final question? They have different rules over on the HIV Prevention Forum and I think they are very lucky in that respect. They can issue warnings to people like you. I can't. But if I could, it would read exactly the same as this warning you got just a short while ago from Teak.
You need to get into therapy for your paranoia, which is unbelievably irrational.
Move on.

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Avatar universal

I was never trying to trick you. In my original post I thought that I said I was referred here from the hiv prevention forum. I was just looking for more information that could possibly help calm my fears. Once again, I truly do thank you for taking the time to help me.

370181 tn?1428180348
Your fears are not rational. The fact that you've burned through two forums is ample proof of that.

You need serious professional help and we cannot provide that for you here.

Your risk factor has been deemed ZERO by Teak, the very best MedHelp has to offer.

Until you get professional help, you will NEVER run out of "but what if" questions, you will ALWAYS find something new to worry about, and you will never BELIEVE what anybody tells you.

Your questions have been asked and answered.

Accept it, or not, but you need to move on.
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370181 tn?1428180348
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