Have people been infected with HIV from being stuck by needles in non-health care settings?

No. While it is possible to get infected with HIV if you are stuck with a needle that is contaminated with HIV, there are no documented cases of transmission outside of a health-care setting.

CDC has received inquiries about used needles left by HIV-infected injection drug users in coin return slots of pay phones, the underside of gas pump handles, and on movie theater seats. Some reports have falsely indicated that CDC "confirmed" the presence of HIV in the needles. CDC has not tested such needles nor has CDC confirmed the presence or absence of HIV in any sample related to these rumors. The majority of these reports and warnings appear to be rumors/myths.

CDC was informed of one incident in Virginia of a needle stick from a small-gauge needle (believed to be an insulin needle) in a coin return slot of a pay phone and a needle found in a vending machine that did not cause a needle-stick injury. There was an investigation by the local police and health department and there was no report of anyone contracting an infectious disease from these needles.

Discarded needles are sometimes found in the community. These needles are believed to have been discarded by persons who use insulin or inject illicit drugs. Occasionally the public and certain workers (e.g. sanitation workers or housekeeping staff) may sustain needle-stick injuries involving inappropriately discarded needles. Needle-stick injuries can transfer blood and blood-borne pathogens (e.g., hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV), but the risk of transmission is extremely low and there are no documented cases of transmission outside of a health care setting.

CDC does not recommend routinely testing discarded needles to assess the presence or absence of infectious agents in the needles. Management of exposed persons should be done on a case-by-case basis to determine (1) the risk of a blood-borne pathogen infection in the source and (2) the nature of the injury. Anyone who is injured from a needle-stick in a community setting should contact their health-care provider or go to an emergency room as soon as possible. Antiretroviral medications given shortly after being stuck by a needle infected with HIV can reduce the risk of HIV infection. The health-care provider should then report the injury to the local or state health department.

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