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Ask Dr. K
YOUNG AND AFRAID OF HIV

QUESTION
I am a young gay man still trying to feel comfortable with my sexuality.  Fear of HIV is preventing me from doing this, however I constantly feel as if I am fated to get it. This fear is making me paranoid, which leads me to my question.

I recently went to the dentist and when I went to rinse, I saw someone else's blood in the drain.  I fear I may have been exposed to HIV.  Is there anyway I could have from this incident?

That same day, I banged my hand at the library and when I looked at it it had a red mark on it.  I assumed I had cut myself and licked the red substance off my hand, only to discover I did not have a cut.  If it was someone else's blood, is there a risk of HIV transmission associated with my ingesting this substance especially since my gums were sore from the dentist?

ANSWER
Being young, gay and sexually active can be a confusing place to be these days, even more so when you struggle with ways to stay safe from HIV transmission. But there are some very easy steps to keep things in perspective: HIV needs direct access into your body without exposure to light, air or chemicals along the way.

Direct Access = Unprotected intercourse or needle sharing, period.

Touching someone's body fluids (blood, semen or saliva) isn't high risk; our skin is a good first level defense against HIV. Unless you have open cuts on your hand and blood is actively bleeding from an HIV- positive person, touching bodily fluids should cause you no harm.

If you are sexually active, you might want to have a complete STD screening every three months.  This will help ease your nerves because you will stay current with your own HIV and STD status. In San Francisco, City Clinic and Magnet both offer free to low cost screenings to encourage gay, bisexual and queer men to make screenings a part of their routine sexual healthcare

To your health,
Dr. K


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Last modified on Thursday, November 19, 2009.
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