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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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  1. Dear Doctor,

    I am just anxious about having used(inserting into my rectum) a dildo 150 days after a HIV-positivie guy could have used it .the dildo was kept in a locked drawer(no light;no wind),so it was still wet(some oil-based lubricant on it could not be dried ).
    i am so regret that i just didn`t wash it before using the dildo.
    i know hiv can hardly survive if the environment is totally dried.BUT,can hiv survive on the wet dildo for more than 150 days?how risky is it? pls help me ,save me pls!

    • I do not believe there is any real risk from this exposure, as HIV should not survive in this setting. However, if you are still concerned, please get tested at the appropriate time.

  2. Swathi

    Hello doctor,

    I brought small onion packets from grocery store..they have packed onion in net bag using small metal it was little sharp I got cut on my finger..I saw some red spots on package..this happened 24 hr while opening.if someone have cut their fingers n leaving blood spot on packages..I am risk for hiv or hep c? When can go for hiv test..I have 2 kids in home very anxious..

  3. Very scared

    Hi doctor, I recently went for tooth extraction and a lot of blood. The Dentist asked me to change the gauze for my gum wound after one hour and I was still at shopping mall. She told me to make the gauze wet with little bit of water. I went to the shopping mall toilet tap to make the gauze wet before putting it at my wounded gum. Then I observe the tap is not very clean with some stains on it look like brown Colour maybe it is blood. I am very scared now that maybe I have hiv and aids from the tap water that could be contaminated with aids and I put the wet gauze at my wounded gum. Please help. Thank you
    Should I go for a hiv test?

  4. Scared

    Hello doctor, i have gone to barbershop for haircut. When he shave my facial hair, he make a accidentally fatal mistake (or not accident i doubt) to make wound on my face (have blood but is fast healing in minutes). I also dont see he change the razor blades before shave my facial hair. And before me there someone that he use the razor blade (costumer before me). Do you think i safe from hiv?

    After confronted the hairdresser he apologized and said he change the razor blade, but i’m 100%sure he not (either he change immediately after shaving another customer or he lying). Anxiety and panic attacked me at the moment, and thinking to wait 3 month from now is torments me. Please answer doc 🙁

    Thank you

    • I do not believe there is any realistic risk from this encounter. However, if you are still concerned, please see a doctor and get tested.

      • Scared

        Hi doctor, today i finally do consult in hospital. The doctor said that the risk is non existent because of even there is blood on the razor, all barbershop will at least swipe the blood away till gone and dry (because shaving usually last part of haircut in my country). She said hiv is dead when is not encapsulated by blood in air.

        Is it true doc? She said i dont need test (at least for hiv, she assured me for this, but not for other disease)

        Is it true doc? Is she right??

        Sorry for panic rant, really hope you answer my question. Thank you before

  5. Iverson

    Dear Doctors,

    I went to a massage parlor and only had handjob and breastjob done while i am having a genital herpes outbreak at that point of time.

    Will i get HIV from her assuming that she is HIV +?

    Do i need a test and can my result be conclusive on the 19th days of exposure with a 4th generation test?

    Please Advice doctors.

    Thank you.

    • Dr Elaine Loh

      Assuming you only had handjob and breastjob, you are not at risk of HIV in my opinion.

  6. johnson

    Dear Doctor,

    I went to a massage parlor and only had a handjob and breastjob done while i am having a genital herpes outbreak at that point of time. does that post any high risk of getting HIV from the girl if sh is hiv positive?

    • Dr Elaine Loh

      Assuming you only had handjob and breastjob, you are not at risk of HIV in my opinion. Get tested only if you are extremely worried about it (for the peace of mind)


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