Are we at risk of getting infected when we go to get a manicure?
Photo: Svetlana MAKOVEEVA
May 21 this year is World AIDS Remembrance Day (held annually on the third Sunday in May). HIV is one of the most studied viruses in human history, experts say. And it is that, although up to now it has not been possible to definitively defeat the disease, more and more data is accumulating in this regard. What is known today about the forms of HIV infection? Which routes of transmission are the most common, which are very rare and even impossible, contrary to the ideas of many people? We talked about this with the director of the Federal Scientific and Methodological Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vadim Pokrovsky.
MANICURE AND DENTISTRY: IS THERE A RISK?
– Vadim Valentinovich, there is conflicting information on the Internet, help me figure it out: is there still a risk of contracting HIV during a manicure and at the dentist? Both here and there, blood can stain the instruments. If they suddenly aren’t thoroughly sanitized, what then?
– To date, not a single case of HIV transmission by such methods has been officially documented. But still, there is no guarantee that the probability of infection in such situations is 100% excluded. The risk is minimal, but it exists. Therefore, compliance with the rules for processing tools, of course, is mandatory.
– It is no longer possible to become infected with a blood transfusion, is it carefully controlled?
– Theoretically, a rare set of circumstances is possible in which infection occurs. In practice, again, this is extremely unlikely. In our country now really very careful control [за безопасностью донорских материалов].
In theory, it can be assumed that the donor became infected, and literally a couple of days later he went to donate blood. Then there is a chance that neither HIV antibodies nor the genetic material of the virus will be recorded in the test. But, I repeat, this is a great rarity: from a series of one case to several tens of millions of blood transfusions.
THE THREE MOST COMMON METHODS OF INFECTION
According to the latest data, 73% of HIV infections in Russia are due to sexual contact between men and women. That is, the absolute leader is the heterosexual route of transmission, says academician Pokrovsky.
– No more than 3% are homosexual contacts. The remaining 24% of infections are due to drug use (through syringe needles when injecting. – Ed.), – explains the expert. Experts point out that the so-called vertical transmission route, from mother to baby, in our country now does not exceed 1-2%. If an HIV-positive pregnant woman takes antiviral drugs with discipline, the risk of infection in the newborn is reduced to zero.
– If you use a condom during sexual intercourse, will it protect you 100%? What do research and observations say?
– The condom is still considered the most reliable method of protection. But, only on condition that it is of high quality, not expired, not damaged and applied in accordance with all the rules. In particular, it is important that it be put on before it comes into contact with the partner’s body. And removed, only after the cessation of contact (because there may be, for example, drops of sperm on the body. – Ed.). Poor quality or expired condoms can break. In this case, there is a risk of infection.
– Is it true that an HIV-infected person who takes all prescribed drugs can reach a state in which even with contact without a condom for a partner, there will be no risk of infection?
– With proper treatment, after a few months, the viral load can drop so low that HIV can no longer be detected in the blood. In this case, there is really no risk of infection for the partner. But in practice, in such situations, it is still dangerous to relax. First, if a person infected with HIV forgets one of her medications, the virus rears its head again. Wouldn’t members take one test at a time to check the viral load? Secondly, it is important to remember that in addition to HIV without a condom, there is a high risk of contracting viral hepatitis, syphilis and gonorrhea.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS IN THE HOME?
– Can you get HIV from personal hygiene items – a razor, a toothbrush? These things also come in contact with blood (for example, with bleeding gums). How long can the virus survive in them?
– For infection through blood, a sufficiently high “dose” of the virus is needed. And you need to get on unprotected surfaces, for example, on open wounds. Saliva in the mouth has a protective property. So the chance of infection via a razor or toothbrush is extremely small. But it is still not equal to zero. Therefore, we certainly do not recommend sharing personal hygiene items.
Regarding the “viability” of the virus, it is known, in particular, that HIV remains in the needle of an injection syringe for several days.
TO THE POINT
Lucky people: who are the genes that protect against HIV
– Vadim Valentinovich, are there really people who do not become infected with HIV due to special mutations in their genes?
– Yes, a certain genotype is known: in its owners, the CCR5 receptor gene is changed, which HIV uses to enter the cell. This makes the person immune to infection by most variants of HIV. Most of these individuals are found in Northern Europe, about 1% (on average, the prevalence of a “protective” mutation among people ranges from 0.1% to 1% – Ed.).
However, it is known that in drug users, when a needle is inserted, some variants of the virus can enter cells through other receptors. And then even “natural” protection may not work.
By the way, as experts explain, it is for this reason, the facilitated introduction of the virus with deep penetration, that HIV was so effectively transmitted in the past when non-disinfected reusable syringes were used for medical purposes. This happened, in particular, during the mass infection of children in Elista in 1988.