How Long Does HIV Live Outside the Body?

HIV or the Human Immunodeficiency virus is perhaps the most feared amongst those who come in close contact with body fluids, even miniscule quantities, and are often concerned about its transmission. More often, the idea of its ability to survive outside the body is a particular source of distress and raises ample questions. This article will explain on how long HIV can live outside the body as well as the chances of being infected by HIV virus through other ways.

How Long does HIV Live Outside the Body?

According to an Australian review (2003), “Viral survival is influenced by virus titer, volume of blood, ambient temperature, exposure to sunlight and humidity.”

Laboratory studies, aiming to acquire data on HIV survival, developed solutions containing copious amounts of artificially grown viral concentrations and revealed that the viruses could be kept alive in the course of days to weeks, given that optimal conditions were maintained.

However, drying of these fluids reduces the amount of infectious virus by 99 percent in a span as low as a few hours, according to CDC. So we can say that most of the HIV virus dies within several hours outside the body because of inappropriate temperature, lack of human host and other factors.

Other Facts of HIV Survival

1. Being insensitive to extreme cold, HIV requires heat and temperatures as high as 60°C to be killed/ destroyed.

2. HIV levels in blood at room temperature remain markedly stable. It is interesting to note that the virus can persist in dried blood for at least a week at 4°C.

3. Survival of HIV in syringes, used to draw blood infected with the virus, can last as long as four weeks. The temperature played a role with a longer survival of the virus with temperatures lower than 4°C while viral activity was not detected after seven days when temperatures were elevated as high as 27-37°C.

4. Its sensitivity to changes in pH leads to variable survival term with HIV, the most suitable being 7-8, below or above which can quicken the death of the virus.

5. Survival of HIV in sewage water, as proven by the research of Thames Water, is up to several days. This survival, however, is inconsequential to the risk factor as HIV has hardly ever been isolated from feces and urine.

FAQs of HIV Transmission

1. Can I Get HIV from Anal Sex?

The answer is, yes. Both sexes are at a risk of acquiring HIV. Since the lining of the rectum is thin, it allows the virus an easy access to the blood. It is perceived that the person receiving the semen is at a greater risk. However, a penis being inserted in an infected partner can acquire HIV through small cuts, abrasions, or open sore. It is also possible for the virus to transmit through the urethra.

Abstinence is perhaps the safest option however latex condoms in combination with water-based lubricants are a viable option.

2. Can I Get HIV from Vaginal Sex?

This mode is perhaps the most common cause of HIV transmission. Both partners are at a significant risk of acquiring the virus. Abrasions, sores or cuts on the penis and abrasions along the vaginal path are a serious problem that may lead to providing an easy route of transmission. The use of condoms, latex and plastic are used to avoid exposure although it is believed that abstinence may be the only option.

3. Can I Get HIV from Oral Sex?

It is uncommon but not unheard of that people opting for oral sex might contact AIDs through blood, seminal or vaginal fluids. Although transmission of HIV is least likely for this mode of sexual activity than the others, it still constitutes a risk. The common causes are cuts or open wounds around the mouth or throat which can contact semen or vaginal fluids.

4. Can I Get HIV from Injecting Drugs?

While injecting a drug, the blood drawn into the syringe may be infected and the reuse of such a syringe constitutes a greater risk of inducing HIV or any other blood-borne disease. The most common mishaps occur through reuse of disposed syringe or sharing drug equipment which includes reuse of syringe to prepare drugs; reuse of water, bottle caps or other containers for dissolving. A particular nuisance is the ‘street sellers’ that sell used syringes as sterilized ones. The safest option is therefore to avoid these mishaps and buy syringes from reputed pharmacies.

5. Can I Get HIV from Kissing?

The idea that a person may acquire HIV from kissing is rare but not altogether foreign. It is however, accepted that closed mouth kissing does not constitute any risk. Infected people who have sores or cuts around the mouth or throat may transmit the disease through blood contact and a few instances have been reported where French kissing has led to the transmission of the virus.

6. Can I Get HIV Through Body Piercing?

It is in fact common, occurring in many places that people who reuse equipment without sterilizing or disinfecting it are at a risk of acquiring HIV or other such blood-borne diseases. For general health awareness, workers at piercing and tattoo parlors should be educated about possible hazards of reusing unsterilized equipment. It is also feasible to use and dispose onetime instruments for such instances where the skin is broken.

7. Can I Get HIV from Mosquitoes?

No. Mosquitoes and other biting insect, in fact, cannot transmit HIV or other such viruses because when bitten by such an insect, there is no contact with the blood of any previous person but the saliva of the very insect. HIV lacks the tendency to survive in a mosquito’s body and thus is not transmitted. This explains how areas heavily populated with mosquitoes and AIDs do not show epidemic outbreaks.

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