|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Any evidence that a droplet of blood from an HIV patient on the eye can cause infection?
Yes. There is a small but real risk of HIV transmission through the eyes.
HIV can enter the body after injection into the blood, as with intravenous drug users, transfused blood products (now very rare as donated blood units are specifically tested for HIV and other viruses), and through mucous membranes. The eyes can be considered as mucous membrane tissue.
The HIV virus is found in high levels in blood, semen, and milk. These fluids should be thought of as infectious. There are much lower levels of HIV in tears and there hasnít been a documented case of spread through tears.
The HIV avert page discusses this question and says: Research suggests the risk of HIV infection in this way is extremely small. A very small number of people -usually in a healthcare setting- have become infected with HIV as a result of blood splashes in the eye. http://www.avert.org/faq1.htm
Hereís what the Safetyline has to say:
While the risk is very low, it is not zero. HIV infection has been reported after occupational exposures to HIV-infected blood through needlesticks or cuts; splashes in the eyes, nose, or mouth; and skin contact. The risk after exposure of the eye, nose, or mouth to HIV-infected blood is estimated to be, on average, 0.1% (1 in 1,000).
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