A Beijing taxi passenger must wait an agonising three months to find out whether he has HIV after being accidently stabbed by a hypodermic needle that later tested positive for the virus.
The 37-year-old was taking a taxi from Wudaokou in the capital's Haidian district after a business meeting when his leg was punctured by the needle sticking out of the magazine pocket on the back of the front seat.
Looking inside, he found the needle was attached to a syringe filled with a thick, yellow fluid.
"I couldn't figure out what it was," the man was quoted as saying in the Beijing News yesterday.
He immediately ordered the driver to divert to a hospital. Together they tried three hospitals in vain before the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the Chaoyang district agreed to carry out tests on the syringe.
"Very quickly after giving the doctor the syringe I got a call from the hospital. The doctor said the HIV virus was present in the fluid. I collapsed to the ground," the man recounted.
He was then referred to the Sexually Transmitted Diseases unit at Ditan Hospital, where he was given medicines designed to decrease the chances of HIV transmission.
Initial blood test results showed he was HIV negative, but he must wait three months for a follow-up test, as that is how long it can take for antibodies to develop, which would indicate the virus is present.
He is also clinging to the outside chance that the test on the syringe showed a false positive.
The incident has had other consequences. The man was preparing to take his girlfriend to visit his parents as a prelude to proposing. But when she learned of the incident, she ended the relationship.
Scientists and medical authorities noted that HIV does not survive well outside the body, making the possibility that he is infected remote.
Lun Wenhui, a doctor at Ditan Hospital, told the Beijing newspaper that the HIV virus needed optimal temperatures to survive outside the body. He said the case was a freak accident and urged the public not to panic.
The taxi driver said he had picked up three women passengers before the man but had not noticed anything suspicious.
Police have declined to open an investigation, classifying the incident as accidental injury.