Today Matt and I had a workday in the light, refreshing rain. I didn't expect many people to come weed in the rain but I was happy to see Chris show up as he's always good for conversation and a hard worker :)
Later on, I because even more grateful that Chris was there...
As we started the day I mentioned finding needles in the garden, and how I'd picked up a dozen or so. I told Chris to be careful. I've been worrying about what might happen if a volunteer got a needle stick injury, and I wanted to have a protocol to follow in case that dreadful day arrived.
Turns out Chris is a retired AIDS doctor! I asked him what he would do, and he gave me some great and balanced information. The chances of getting HIV or Hepatitis from a needle stick are very, very low... 0.3% according to various legit-sounding sources online. You can also take drugs that will reliably prevent you developing HIV. So needle stick injures seem less terrifying.
The real question is "what is your tolerance for stressing about it" because it can take 2-4 weeks to develop a testable case of HIV, and if you don't start prophylactic medication within 72 hours, that's a long wait to know if you're safe.
About five minutes later as I was lifting a pile of weeds into a tubtrug I felt a prick.
A used needle lay in the weed heap.
What are the chances of THAT?
There was no blood, but it poked me in the palm - through my glove. Chris directed me home and I scrubbed it with Hibiclens and noted my last tetanus shot was in 2012. Back at the garden, Chris reassured me some more and told me to get on the phone to my doctor. And they called the hotline for such things. And called me back to say "don't worry" - there has never been a single case of HIV infection from a needle found in the environment.
I'm going to go in Monday for an HIV and Hepatitis test, and repeat that in a month just in case.
In the meantime, stay safe out there gardeners. I think some heavy leather gloves are in order.