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How long can HIV live outside the body?

How long can HIV live outside the body?

  • HIV can survive outside the body for weeks

  • There has never been a case of HIV infection from casual contact with contaminated surfaces of potentially infected body fluids

I often get this question or variations on it for example:

How long can HIV survive in air?

How long can HIV survive on surfaces?

Let’s look at the evidence available to us.

  • HIV is killed by heat. Temperatures of above 60⁰C will kill HIV.
  • HIV is NOT killed by cold. In fact, colder temperatures increase the survival time of HIV.
    • At 27⁰C to 37⁰C, HIV can survive up to 7 days in syringes
    • At room temperature, HIV can survive in dried blood for 5 to 6 days
    • At 4⁰C, HIV can survive up to 7 days in dried blood
    • At -70⁰C, HIV can survive indefinitely
    • HIV can only survive in pH between 7 and 8
    • HIV has been found to survive for a few days in sewage
    • HIV has been found to survive in organs and corpses for up to 2 weeks

You would notice that all these studies are done on blood. There is really no good evidence to determine how long HIV from semen, vaginal secretions of other body fluids can survive outside the body. One fact is that it is very difficult to culture HIV from semen. This indicates the low viral content and we can assume that the same timelines for blood apply to semen if not less.

In these experiments, the survivability of the HIV virus is determined by its retention of the ability to infect cells in cell culture.

We must be careful not to equate survivability to infection. In other words:

HIV infected surface/fluid + broken skin ≠HIV infection

This is because there are many other factors that influence infection for example, the amount of virus has to be high enough in order to cause an infection. Also, when live HIV virus comes into contact with broken skin or mucosa, it still has to undergo a very complex series of steps before it actually causes a HIV infection. The mechanism of HIV infection is a lot more complex and will be discussed in detail in another article.

You would also note that these experiments were all done in a controlled environment of a lab. Many other factors such as wind, rain, humidity, type of surface etc are not taken into account.

Most people ask this question because they have been exposed to some potentially infected fluids and are afraid of being infected with HIV.

To date, there have not been any cases of HIV transmission via casual contact with surfaces or contaminated fluids.

HIV is transmitted via sexual intercourse, blood transfusion and sharing of infected needles. There have also been isolated cases of HIV transmission from dental treatments.

In summary, if you have touched some surface or fluid that you think might be contaminated with HIV, do not worry. You will not get infected.

If you have any questions, visit our free online forum on sexual health, HIV and STDs.

If you had a high risk exposure to HIV within the past 72 hours, you can take medicines to reduce your risk of actually contracting HIV. Find out more on HIV PEP Treatment.

If not read more about HIV symptoms.

Can’t wait for 3 months to find out? Find out more about Anonymous Rapid HIV Combo test at our clinics.

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About Dr. Tan
Dr. Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2001. His residency was in the two largest public hospitals in Singapore; Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.

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595 Comments

  1. Rahul ramkumar

    Hello doctor,
    I had sex with call girl during the act I slightly touched her out side vagina skin .but I used condom properly is there is any exposure and tell me the peril of testing

    • There is no peril in testing. Testing is good and should be done by everyone. Condoms are not 100% safe. You are still at risk.

  2. Hi Doctor Tan, recently I went to get myself tested for HIV – not for any specific incident but just as routine checking every year. After my finger prick test, I then opened the door to the waiting room and it has occured to me that everyone else before me has done the same, with their freshly pricked finger touching the same doorknob. Is there any HIV transmition risk from touching this doorknob? Could the person before me have left blood from their prick on the doorknob and then I have gotten that in my “prick hole” for lack of a better term? Thanks for your reply.

    • If that is the case we should all stop touching doorknobs. You cannot get HIV from a doorknob.

  3. Hello,
    I had a small splash of possible semen on the corner of my left eye. Is there a chance of hiv exposure this way? Thanks.

    • Theoretically there is a risk of infection if HIV +ve body fluid comes into contact with the eye. Please see your doctor.

  4. How long can hiv blood survive inside the fridge?

  5. Hi Sir,

    Recently I was at a cosmestic store and tried on a couple of lipsticks directly on my lips. At that time I had chapped lips (not sure if there were cuts) and I am worried that I might have contacted Hepatitis C in the occasion that the previous user who tested the lipstick has cut lips and the virus as well. I am having sleepless nights over this issue. Please advise on the possibility of me contacting hcv. Thank you!

    • That is an unsubstantiated worry. You cannot get Hep C from sharing lipsticks despite the fact that sharing lipsticks is a really unhygienic thing to do and the store really should not be allowing that.

  6. Hello doctor,

    Looking for your help to understand my situation,yesterday I went to a hospital lab to collect some details,Lab technician was taking the blood from a patient by using gloves,then immediately after few seconds he has given me a small plastic container,here my worries are when he was giving me that container he touched my finger for a second by using the same gloves which he used for previous patient,after 10mts i washed my hand.

    1.If there is any blood in his gloves from previous patient when he touched mu finger am I risk of HIV and other STD’s?
    2.he was the one brought one small plastic container to me by using same gloves,there is any hiv risk for me when I touched that container?

    Thanks.

  7. I had sex with a hooker. She removed the condom from my penis which has a few small cuts from some aggressive masturbation the day before. As she removed it the outside of the condom touched my penis. I then proceeded to jerk myself off before ejaculating on a tissue. What are the chances of catching HIV or an STD?

    • You are at risk of HIV but not because of the cuts on your penis or touching the outside of the condom. You are at risk because quite simply, condoms are not 100% protective of HIV. Albeit your risk if probably extremely low. Similarly, condoms are not 100% effective against STDs.

  8. I have been with a sex worker, when we were doing the act, she asked me to spit on the condom ,so i did but in the process i might have touched the condom and then touched my mouth
    And now i’m worried that i’ve transported some of the vaginal fluids(on the condom) into my mouth
    please Dr is there a risk of HIv and do I have to et tested(I’m freaking out)
    kind regards

    • I honestly cannot see how you can catch HIV from this. In my opinion there is no risk of HIV. However, I must point out to you that condoms do NOT provide 100% protection from HIV.

  9. Hi doctor..i really scared depressed bcz I met a call girl she had done 1. Oral sex without condom and 2. I had 2 days old paper cut on top of my forefinger (may her rectal fluids had contacted to thecut when I touched the condom during blowjob which was taken from her vagina)…i really depressed I vl not do it again plz help plzz

    • I do not think you are at any kind of significant risk of HIV from your exposure. However, you have to test to be sure.

  10. hello doctor if i touch a hiv infcted condom soon after having (within 2-3 sec ) with a peeled of skin is there a chance of getting hiv …please answer soon

  11. Sir,
    One of my friend went for massage he is worrying that he get hiv because his penis touch on bad which may be have semen or liquid on bad so may be he get hiv.

  12. I had a connect with same ferec in bed (blood not sure it was dried)while i was working housekeeping(program exchange student)
    before 5 years.I was usuing detergent to clean the bed but my mistake i was not weraring the glovs and know i am worry to much even for these years i am healthy and dont have any symptoms.
    thank you for ur time and regards.

  13. Hi doctor, if I’ve got a small cut on my hand and then I accidentally touched a surface with possible contamination, is there a chance of getting infected? Thanks for your reply.

    • Infected with HIV from such an exposure? Absolutely not. Please stop worrying.

  14. Hallo Dr. Tan,

    i bought a Hamburger an ate it. After the third bite i saw blood (no ketchup etc.) next to the biting edge of the burger bun. At first i thought it was my blood, to find out i provoked bleeding from my gums, an there really came blood, but afterwards i realized, that it could have come from the burger bun
    8 days later i got a strange feeling in my left cheek next an under my ears, but the doctors did´nt find anything via ultrasonic.
    But the feeling of tension was there. Do you have any idea?
    I´m worried, that it was blood of the burger employee, mayby HIV+. So could the cheek have something to do with this?
    Am i at risk?

    • You cannot get HIV by eating a burger, even if there is blood on the burger.

      • Hallo Dr. Liong,

        thanks a lot for your reply. Hopefully i´m not the first exception. Still wonderig what i had…

        Kind regards.

        Live long and prosper 😉

  15. Limerick

    Hi Doctor, is it possible that without proper infection controls, through sabotage or a psychopath medical practitioner, someone could be infected with HIV from undergoing a rapid 20 minute HIV test?

    My view is it’s risky when blood is involved. Individuals should opt for the saliva based test. You can’t go wrong with that.

    Hope you’re fine with tough questions.

    Thanks

    Limerick

    • I think you are being paranoid. Anyone who come in to do HIV test is more worried about the HIV test result than getting HIV infection from the test itself.

  16. Recently I had a mouth thrush and I drank tea at a tea stall, the problem is i didnt check if there was blood by the side I drank the tea. Now I am scared what if there was contimminated blood by the side I drank and it touched my mouth thrush, am I at risk? And I am not sexually active and never used shared needle nor had blood transfussion. Please help.

  17. Worried guy

    Dr recently I went to a massage parlour.I’m not sure if the condom was newly opened from package.Before putting it on me she touched the condom on the tip of my pen is and said she could not put it on me.But she put it on me anyway.
    My fear is that if she had put the same condom on another person pens tip before me will I get hiv?Though the condom looked dry and new to me still I am afraid

    • Whether or not she used an already used condom on you or not is something I do not know and am unable to comment on.

      • Worried guy

        Dear Dr Tan assuming that the inside of the condom was in contact with the penis of another person for a short duration and a time gap of 40 minutes before I wear it,please advise my risk. Is infection possible in this manner? Please waiting for your reply Dr.

  18. I have been with a sex worker in amsterdam and i suspected her pulling a used condom from the trash while i was away and putting it om my penis. I was surprised to see that the condom was inside her two fingers unrolled and asked why you put your fingers inside the condom and she said so she can put it on me. I didn’t think at that time the condom might be used but after i left from her i started thinking. My penis was not hard at the time she put the condom on me and i was not able to get it hard due to her bad attitude, so i took off the condom, washed my penis with soap and left without doing anything with her.

    Is there any risk for me for getting and hiv from this used condom if it was from an infected person and it was really from the trash? I am very worried. The condom was tight while my penis was not erected, so i am not quite sure it is used. But lets assume the worst.

    Kind regards,

  19. Hello sir,
    Something bothers me so much sir. I had an injury while at the mall. I remembered that later I was on lift and I placed one of my hands on the hand of the lift while going up in the lift. Suddenly I started rubbing the wound with the same hand I used to hold the hand of the lift and since then I have become so afraid that I could not concentrate again sir. Please what bothers me is that what if there is someone’s blood in the hand of the lift and I touched it and at same time rubbed the wound in my body can it cause hiv?

  20. Sandy T

    My uncle died of AIDS and he was refrigerated for 30 hours, as we were waiting for our relatives to pay respects. When we removed the body from the freezer after 30 hours for the final rituals, the nose began to bleed from the body, one of my uncle wiped the blood from his bare hands and he rubbed that on his cloth and immediately he wiped his face from the same hand. He was unaware of his status, my question is can he contract hiv? How long can hiv survive in a dead body? How long can Hiv survive outside the dead which is dead for 32 hrs (refrigerated). What if it went into his eyes? I’m freaking out can you pease reply

    • The HIV virus can survive for a long time in a dead body even if the body has been frozen. That is not the point. The point is it is extremely unlikely for your uncle to catch HIV from using his hand to wipe blood from the nose, clean it on a cloth, then wipe his own eyes. In my view, there is no risk. However, please be reminded that this forum is not for dispensing medical advice. Your uncle should still see his doctor to get advice on what to do.

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