I hesitate to share this article because I don’t want to create unnecessary panic and scaremonger. I should think most Malawians are familiar with the common modes of HIV transmission. Exposure or contact through mucous membranes or open skin to body fluids: Breast milk, semen, vaginal fluid and blood of someone infected with HIV. So, unprotected sex, breast feeding and sharing needles are common modes of transmission. We all know the HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact, so sharing a spoon or bed with someone that has HIV carries negligible risk.
Having said that they are some very unusual modes with very low risks where you are probably more likely to be struck with lightning twice than contracting HIV, one such incident was recently published in a scientific journal. A woman in Brazil was believed to have been infected by sharing manicure scissors with someone who was infected.
During a blood donation, a 22-year-old Brazilian woman was found to HIV positive. She denied vaginal, anal or oral sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, surgery, piercing, or tattooing. Her boyfriend of two years was negative and medical examination deemed her as still a virgin. Tests confirmed that her mom was negative and had never used any blood products or suffered sexual violence. Mystery right?
More tests reveal that although she had no symptoms she had oral candidas, a low CD4 count and a high viral load and signs that she had been infected for sometime.
Baffling? More research, she remembers a cousin who had stayed with them 10 years ago who was later found to be HIV positive. This cousin was a manicurist and the lady remembers sharing a cuticle scissors with the cousin. Tests were done to compare the biological material of the HIV virus from the two ladies and it was found to be similar suggesting that they had been infected by the same virus.
There are some weird but true mechanisms of transmissions, they have an extremely low likelihood but transmission routes like tattooing, acupuncture, piercing, sharing sex toys and barber shops carry a very very low but plausible risk. I am not suggesting you go bushman and stop getting haircuts and manicures but no one can guarantee you that you won’t encounter HIV virus in an unexpected place.