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Has HIV been passed via jeweler tools?


During the last couple days while I was cataloging all the tools that
I either came across for a song or got dumped on me, my fingers kind
of got pricked by the finer points.

My fingers healed okay, but as I was washing my hands with soap and
water, I had this sinking feeling that perhaps I should have rinsed
all my used burrs and gravers in some water laced with bleach.

I mean, HIV is no respecter of occupations, right? Is sterlizing
surplus tools as they come into your shop a standard practice? Should
it be?

Has anyone ever contracted HIV through sharing jewelers’ tools?

Andrew Jonathan Fine

HIV can only be contracted if these conditions have been met:

The person must be exposed to HIV.

  1. A blood borne pathogen carrying fluid must be present (not urine
    or saliva).

  2. The person must contact the fluid in mucous membrane (mouth/eye
    and some very intimate places) or nonintact skin

  3. The blood borne pathogen carrying fluid must have HIV in it.

The probability of meeting these from used tools is very close to

However, if a person is concerned enough, then a cleaning with hot
water and soap is sufficient to kill the HIV. It is a very fragile
virus and easy to kill. BTW, in my previous life as a paramedic, we
had our ambulances tested (microbiology class tried to grow viri and
bacteria and fungi) and nothing could be grown from the vehicles. We
routinely have about 5 critical trauma cases each week which produce
puddles of red gooey stuff all over the place. In the 27 ambulances,


HI Andrew.

I doubt it. My understanding is the HIV virus itself is pretty
fragile outside the body. The figure that sticks in my head is 15
minutes of daylight UV will kill it.

Keeping in mind that I’m not a doctor, and don’t pretend to play one
on TV. This is worth exactly what you paid for it.

I did do a little digging to see if my memory was correct. Found

They tested various virus preparations against both heat and UV. It
could survive up to several weeks, depending on temps, but UV killed
it in half an hour or so. Much less, depending on distance to the
light source. A blood born suspension survived for longer than an
hour, but again, they’re talking hours, not days, weeks or months.

So, the short answer is don’t obsess about it. The odds are in your
favor for once.

That said, try not to get stuck. Blood is bad for your tools.



This is a quote from Ryan M. Kull CSW, Columbia University Health &

“HIV is not known to be transmitted through casual contact because
HIV does not survive long enough to cause infection when exposed to
the environment”.

Yout question is interesting; the above is simply the
first thing that I found when I searched the Internet just now.


No Andrew you cannot become infected with HIV from someone elses old
tools. Like any virus HIV cannot live long outside of a host. The
blood to blood transmission has to be fresh aka wet. So relax and
watch for regular infection. Here is a link with more



Best talk with a medical professional about that, your more likely
to get rumors, suppositions, and half truths that will only make
things harder to understand.

Here is my half truth.

As I recall, the HIV virus is fairly unstable to oxygen. Meaning
unless youcome into contact with freshly exuded fluid, you are fine.

There are lots of blood or body fluid transmitted diseases that
people should be careful about. But usually bacteria and viruses have
a limited life time outside the body. They need to be fed to be

Barbara on another blue sky day - with a homegrown rhubarb custard
pie in the oven

As for ever hearing of a jeweller getting HIV from a tool prick, No.
but it IS possible as are bacterial infections, hepatitis etc. from
bodily fluids - particularly infected mouths, body piercing tools,&
surgical tools that aren’t sterilised. So if you have any
questionable tools just sterilise them by boiling for 9 minutes then
dry well. Better yet, ask a friend, your dentist, if he/she would
autoclave your lot for you- it doesn’t take long and offer them a
tenner. most likely they will accommodate your responsible practises!

Most dental tools are autoclaved before they get passed on to a
jeweller/friend, by a friend - Dental schools won’t pass any on in
most states period (unless you know someone- and then they are
trained to sterilise everything always, anyway- so ask if your
"supplier" seems like someone not so keen!).

…If you get tools from body piercers ask to see their spore test.
if they look at you with a blank stare, they don’t have an autoclave
and aren’t registered with the health dept. of their locale. walk
out. Body piercing tools are the worst risk, though primarily needles
but occasionally burs sometimes used for tweaking fittings, sizes and
to prevent oral, etc. abrading and discarded jewellery (for upgrades)
they are the worst/ most risky "freebies. Even if the metal seems
like you’re just going to toss it into a crucible to melt down
handling it, in an unsterilised condition, is a major ris Not worth
the use you may get from a tungsten needle you would use to fashion a
soldering pick. Most dental and piercing tooling is made of surgical
steel, so not terribly useful in the jewellery studio!..rer

My father-in-law died due to that nasty virus, and the way he went
was not the nicest way to go. Enough said about that.

HIV is a blood to blood virus, but it’s a weak virus. Meaning the
blood needs to be fresh.

To get the HIV virus from jewellers tools your would basically need
to cut an infected person and immediately cut yourself with the
infected tools.

There’s a greater chance of getting tetanus from jewellers tools,
and that would be pretty low.

The reason you should clean pre-loved tools is to avoid possible
infections, not to safeguard against HIV.

Regards Charles A.


Not to worry. HIV is pretty fragile and needs to be in some sort of
body fluid to survive. Therefore, avoid sharing body fluids with
people. Those old, dry tools aren’t fomites for HIV.

Judy in Kansas, who has retired from the public health arena, but
remembers most of it.

you have got to be kidding, if it was that easy to transmit we would
all have it. they have even shown that siblings who have shared a
toothbrush didn’t pass it. hepatitus on the other hand has been
contracted through food handling. the person who has hiv is in more
danger of getting something from you because of his/her immune system
than you getting anythong from them. thankfully the only way you can
get this is from blood to blood contect or sex

I once worked in a shop with a guy who had been treated for
hepatitis. Not sure if he had it or not. Several years before, as a
part time EMT, he was stuck with a needle while opening the shirt of
a junkie that had gotten beaten up on the way to the er. He was
going to attach those sticky pads they hook the wires to for your
heartbeat (I talk technical when it comes to jewelry, not medicine).
It was one of those casual conversations over lunch when talking
about a bit of everything. What with as often somebody was bleeding
in the shop I still never had a worry about catching anything from

I was more worried about the crap that we cleaned off of the
jewelrywe took in for repairs.

Gerald Livings

The HIV virus is a weak little thing and cannot survive more than a
few minutes outside a host, exposed to air. If your used tools were
between users that long, you are not at risk.

You should probably be more concerned with tetanus! My understanding
is that the virus involved cannot survive outside the human body for
more than a very short period of time. According to the CDC, they
tested artificially high concentrations of the virus, leaving it it
out to dry(for example, spilled, dried blood), and even after a few
hours under those conditions 90-99% of the virus died off. So, unless
someone with HIV were to prick themselves with a sharp file then jab
you with it within a very short period of time, the chances are
pretty much nil!


Here is the statement from the CDC’s website:

How well does HIV survive outside the body?

Scientists and medical authorities agree that HIV does not
survive well outside the body, making the possibility of
environmental transmission remote. HIV is found in varying
concentrations or amounts in blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast
milk, saliva, and tears. To obtain data on the survival of HIV,
laboratory studies have required the use of artificially high
concentrations of laboratory-grown virus. Although these
unnatural concentrations of HIV can be kept alive for days or
even weeks under precisely controlled and limited laboratory
conditions, CDC studies have shown that drying of even these high
concentrations of HIV reduces the amount of infectious virus by
90 to 99 percent within several hours. Since the HIV
concentrations used in laboratory studies are much higher than
those actually found in blood or other specimens, drying of
HIV-infected human blood or other body fluids reduces the
theoretical risk of environmental transmission to that which has
been observed--essentially zero. Incorrect interpretations of
conclusions drawn from laboratory studies have in some instances
caused unnecessary alarm. 

Results from laboratory studies should not be used to assess
specific personal risk of infection because (1) the amount of
virus studied is not found in human specimens or elsewhere in
nature, and (2) no one has been identified as infected with HIV
due to contact with an environmental surface. Additionally, HIV
is unable to reproduce outside its living host (unlike many
bacteria or fungi, which may do so under suitable conditions),
except under laboratory conditions; therefore, it does not spread
or maintain infectiousness outside its host.