CDC responds to urban legend’ HIV scare

The Centers for Disease Control and Preven tion in Atlanta recently responded to rumors spreading via the Internet and fax that HIV-infected people were leaving dirty needles in coin return slots of pay phones and in movie theater seats. Such reports are false, the CDC says.

"Some reports have falsely indicated that CDC confirmed’ the presence of HIV in the needles," says a CDC fact sheet issued in March. "CDC has not tested such needles nor has CDC confirmed the presence or absence of HIV in any sample related to these rumors."

Further, CDC officials are unaware of any cases, outside of health care workers, where HIV has been transmitted by a needlestick injury.

However, the CDC has been informed of an incident in Virginia in which a person received a needlestick from a small-gauge needle left in a pay phone coin return slot. Local police investigated the incident, and another needle was found in a vending machine coin return slot a few days later But the CDC reports that these incidents probably involved needles accidentally left by people who either use insulin or are injection drug users.

The CDC report also says the agency does not recommend testing discarded needles to assess the presence or absence of HIV or other infectious agents. The agency outlines its policy, as follows:

Management of exposed persons should be done on a case-by-case evaluation of:

    1) the risk of a bloodborne pathogen infection in the source, and
    2) the nature of the injury.

Also, anyone who is injured from a needlestick in a community setting should contact a physician or go to an emergency room as soon as possible, and the injury should be reported to local or state health departments.

The CDC’s fact sheet can be found at its Web site: www.cdc.gov/nchstp/hiv_aids/pubs/faq/faq5a.htm.