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HIV and AIDS

Did My Husband Transmit HIV To My Daughter?

08/11/2003

Question:

My husband is HIV +, I am negative, and we have a 17 month old daughter who is negative. Since finding out he was positive we always protect ourselves. (We found out he was HIV+ when we applied for life insurance). The other day our daughter was cranky and my husband felt all along her gums and sure enough she was cutting a molar. My husband is a mechanic and his hands are frequently cut up. The fingers he used to feel inside my daughters mouth were indeed red and cut up. In fact, the day before this incident, he scraped a finger so bad that a layer of skin came off. He bled profusely the previous day. HE CLAIMS that there is no worry because no fresh blood was oozing out. BUT, the many cuts were NOT scabbed over yet and very raw looking, so I am extremely angry with him for taking this chance. I love my husband, but this constant worry of infecting myself or my daughter is very overwhelming. Am I overreacting, or did he put our daughter's life in danger?

Answer:

I think it is highly unlikely that your daughter was infected with HIV. There have been many observational studies over the years that showed that HIV transmission in the home setting was extremely rare except in the case of sex partners. Many HIV infected people have been cared for by family members, often when there were some secretions or discharges involved. Occasionally these have small amounts of blood in them, yet HIV was not transmitted to family members. HIV does not survive well outside the body. You are correct, however, that he should be careful about this. It is a good idea for anyone putting a finger in an infants mouth to use a finger cot or latex glove, as other things can be transmitted from the hands.  

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Response by:

Peter T Frame, MD Peter T Frame, MD
Emeritus Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati