Infectious specialist debunks HIV myths

Nov. 30, 2011 at 8:29 AM
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MAYWOOD, Ill., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- An Illinois man faces three felonies, including transmission of HIV, after police said he bit an officer's thumb, but HIV is unlikely, a doctor says.

Dr. Paul O'Keefe, an infectious disease specialist at Loyola University Medical Center, in Maywood, Ill., said human immunodeficiency transmission via a bite is highly unlikely, because although saliva does carry traces of the virus, it is in such low quantities it is not considered harmful.

The accepted medical belief is that an HIV-positive person can kiss an uninfected person without fear of transmission of the virus, said O'Keefe, who did not treat the officer.

"The risk to the officer is extremely low, and I say that because it was from a person's saliva, which typically doesn't contain any blood," O'Keefe, a professor and vice-chairman, interim division director, infectious disease at Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine, said in a statement.

"The only risk would have been if the person doing the biting had HIV and also had his own blood in his mouth, perhaps from a recent injury."

O'Keefe added that:

-- HIV can potentially be transmitted through razors and toothbrushes because of the potential for blood so it's recommend these items not be shared.

-- HIV cannot be transmitted from a shared beverage or food item, or shared eating utensils.

-- Condoms are essential for the prevention of HIV, but not perfect.

-- HIV cannot be transmitted through a toilet seat or other shared facility.

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