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Having fresh hangnail and scars on ankles. What is the possibility of the virus transmitting?

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Infectious Diseases Specialist
Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 871 Questions
Hi, I know it's going to sound weird but... I have a fresh hangnail (not bleeding but red in color). With the fingernail and the hangnail, I hit someone's ankle a bit hard. Then immediately I put my hand in to my slim jean's pockets. Now, there's a rumor that this person is HIV positive and I cannot actually ask her if her arm/hand/ankle bled. However, earlier I noticed she had some scars on her ankles (if it actually increases the likelihood, compared to a fresh skin). What would be the possibility of the virus transmitting through the hangnail's source (the red bit underneath the hangnail) immediately or after I put my hand in my pocket? Many Thanks
Posted Sun, 27 Oct 2013 in HIV and AIDS
Answered by Dr. Roopa Hiremath 5 hours later
Brief Answer:
HIV Exposure

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for using Health care magic for your query.
I have read through your question and I understand your concern regarding exposure to HIV.
I want to explain few details as to what accidental exposure to HIV really entails.
Accidental exposure to HIV can be defined as exposure to blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious material or needles or instruments contaminated with one of the substances (blood, body fluids) of HIV infected patient.
The seriousness of the exposure depends on following factors:
1. Intact skin or broken skin, mucous membrane exposure, percutaneous (needle prick)
2. Volume of infected blood or body fluid
3. Duration of exposure whether short or long.
If intact skin, less volume and short duration of exposure has occurred it means less likely chance of infection.
Now coming to your episode of exposure, hangnail as such is not a very large area of broken skin.
Exposure to blood, body fluid of HIV infected individual is infective but not intact skin, or healed scars.
So there is less likely chance of infection to have occurred.
Please do not worry unnecessarily.
Moreover the HIV status of the person concerned in based on rumors!!!
I hope I have answered your query satisfactorily.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having fresh hangnail and scars on ankles. What is the possibility of the virus transmitting? 4 hours later
The individual has lost significant weight over the last few years with her partner and they had travelled the world including the high risk countries...

My worry is that what is the possiblity of getting infected by breaking her skin ( not so deep I suppose as she did not complain, however some of her body fluids might still be out) and having fresh hangnail

Answered by Dr. Roopa Hiremath 6 hours later
Brief Answer:
Post exposure prophylaxis

Detailed Answer:
Welcome back to health care magic.
As I had explained earlier in my answer, the definition of accidental exposure and its severity.
Based on the severity of exposure, there is a recommendation of antiretroviral drugs which is called as post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) prescribed by WHO.
This is given based on the severity of exposure which is also called as exposure code.
Exposure codes are three types - EC1, EC2, EC3
EC1 - mucous membrane exposure or broken skin with very small volume of fluid for very short duration.
EC2 - mucous membrane exposure or broken skin with very large volume of fluid for long duration.
EC2 - per cutaneous injury (small scratch by solid needle)
EC3 - per cutaneous injury with large bore needle, deep puncture and visible blood.
PEP is recommended for exposures of EC2 and EC3 types.
Yours seems to be exposure of EC type 1.
Anyway, if you are still worried about this episode, I suggest you get in touch with your doctor for a prescription of a basic regimen of 2 anti retroviral drugs.
This therapy is usually taken for 4 weeks.
I do not think you require any PEP.
However if the HIV status of the source patient is known and is confirmed as negative, there is no need for PEP.
I hope I have cleared your doubts.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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