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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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639 Comments

  1. Hello dr. Tan,

    I have got small cut on my hand, and then accidentally I touched surface with possible contamination my questions
    1. Can I getting hiv from dried blood on surface posible contamination?
    2. It necessary to do a hiv test doc ?

    Please help me,,,,

  2. need helo

    hi doc thanx for your work yesterday I was in town and was so pressed that I had to stop at a public toilet to pee the toilet was so dirty full of urine for different people not flushed for long there was no water but no feces present I just went straight doing it hard and the dirty urine splashed back right in my vagina can I get HIV this way in case some people left semen or vaginal fluids there which has HIV though I did not see blood but the toilet was so dirty I regret going there but washed after 25 minutes. help me out pliz

    • Hi,
      I do not think you should worry, as there is essentially zero chance that HIV would be transmitted this way.

  3. can you get hiv from scratch by a scalpel used on hiv positive person though there was no bleeding from the scratched palm.
    (scalpel used 1 minute between the two people)

    • hi sam,

      Contact with infected blood carries with it risk of transmission.
      I would advise that you come in for formal testing.

  4. if i tested negative many times and my most recent exposure from my last test was over 3 months ago and i took a 4th gen and it came back negative and i havent any sex since then but i am having symptoms are the symptoms from something else or should i still be worried and if i was having symptoms to hiv my 4th gen test would pick it up is that correct

  5. May I ask what is the risk of HIV transmission through blood contact with cuts in lips?

    On 23rd Feb night, a commercial sex workers kissed the edge of my lips. I immediatly went to the toilet to wash my lips. On looking in the mirror, I say what may seemed like a red smudge/tinge of blood on the area where she kissed me.

    There was no other sexual contact.

    I collected water in my hands using tap water by cupping my hands under the tap, and proceeded to splash my mouth as well as simultaneously wiping my mouth from one edge to the other edge, starting with the edge where she kissed me, and going over the rest of the lips to the other edge.

    Now, i didn’t gave too much about it, because I knew saliva will not transmit HIV.

    However, in the morning, when I woke up, I saw a small cut on my lower lip, due to chapped lips, with a small speck of blood that is mine. That was yesterday and the small cut is not bleeding anymore.

    POZ forum, the HIV vancouver helpline, and Med Help forum all says that HIV transmission via kissing is simply impossible, even if there are bleeding gums/sores/wounds/ulcers, while other websites say there is risk if infected blood touches the cut.

    Now, I felt that the washing of my lips may have inadvertedly pushed the blood from her to the cut on my lip.

    Or is that me just being paranoid?

    • Dear Feng Ke

      There is no risk of HIV transmission from kissing.
      Fluid to fluid contact is necessary for HIV transmission .
      Theoretically, the risk of bacterial infection would be higher than an HIV infection with any blood contact onto an open wound.

      You can click here to read more on HIV and how it can be transmitted.

  6. I am a nurse newly posted to hospital. Here is the thing that worry me a lot. A long story, hope Doctor can read it to resolve my query.

    I pricked a HIV positive patient ( which i don’t know he is a HIV positive patient) yesterday using a lancet to check his blood glucose without using gloves. After dipped his blood on the glucometer, i wiped off the blood on his finger using the cotton with alcohol ( cotton which was quite thin).

    I pressed lightly on the cotton to stop the bleeding on his finger using thumb and index finger ( i was not sure if the blood stained on my thumb)

    Then i scrubbed my hand throughly using alcohol. Out of curiousity, i pricked my own middle finger to check my own blood glucose. ( I pricked my finger about 1.5 minute i press on the patient’s finger, about 1 minute i scrubbed)

    I knew the patient’s health status after i checked his file. i am worried if the blood stained on the thumb spread to the middle finger during i scrub, then infect me through the prick.

    This has been worry me for the whole night, i can’t sleep yesterday and i dare not to tell my senior. I hope Doctor can answer my question here.

    Thank u in advace

    • Dear Nurse Lim

      If there was proper hand washing , there is no risk of HIV transmission in this case.
      The environment has to be favorable and transfer this way is very unlikely.
      You can click here to read more on HIV and how it can be transmitted.
      I would advise that the next time you were to ensure that your hands are gloved at every procedure that requires you to handle patients blood product/body fluids in the future be it a small or large amount !

  7. Hi Doc,

    I went to a masseur and took off my underwear and left it on the floor.

    After the massage, I wore it back, if the floor had semen or fluid with HIV and stained my underwear and I wore it, do I have any risk of contacting HIV?

    Please advise.

    Thanks.

  8. Note I washed my vagina with water about ten minutes later am still at risk. I just regret allowing him in my house coz am disturbed and he asked me why I looked sad but I kept quiet

  9. am waiting for your response doc.sorry for writing again am worried this guy wanted to have sex with me but I refused he only managed to to insert his finger in my vagina but then he had a wound on the same finger not very fresh but in a sate of healing can a dry wound transmit HIV it came in contract with my vagina. am I at risk or do I need to wait three months again? help out here

    • SM,
      Fluid to fluid contact is necessary for HIV transmission . In your case , the mucous membrane with an open wound if it is infected with HIV virus has a potential risk of transmitting the virus.

      If you are concerned, I recommend you consult your local doctor in getting tested

  10. Sir,
    About two weeks ago I forgot my sandals at the gym and showered after my workout barefoot. There was an itchy spot between my toes that I scratched the previous night, ending up with a scartch wound about the size of a pin’s head or smaller. It didn’t bleed out of the wound but it looked like blood in it. My question is, if I used the shower immediately after someone HIV positive and they had bleed or gotten bodily fluids on the floor, could this transmit HIV? What consists of blood to wound transmition? I didn’t see any mood but just curious. Thank you.

    • There has never been a case of HIV infection from casual contact with contaminated surfaces of potentially infected body fluids . Theoretically in your case, the risk of bacterial infection would be higher than an HIV infection with any blood contact onto an open wound. There is no risk in this case of being infected with HIV .

      • Thank you so very much for the answer..I’ve just read a lot of overly cautious information I suppose. Thank you for putting my mind at ease. God bless.

  11. am back again just yestaday a guy of unknown status fingered me and had a wound on finger
    he used the wound has been there for a few days not very fresh am I at risk since the wound came in contact with my vagina which is a mucous membrane. help me am worried and my work is disturbed.

  12. waiting for the response doc

  13. the doctor’s test was negative and am negative too but I don’t know what happened coz he had a cut and my blood touched his finger but I don’t for the cut so am worried of waiting for three months he tested on 30th January and that happened on 29th January am I at risk or do I need tests again. help out

  14. hi doc I went to do my last test after waiting and worrying for 3 months and it was negative but the bad part is that the doctor was not wearing gloves and my blood touched his finger and I noticed a cut on top of his left finger so I asked him to test as well coz I don’t know if my blood touched his cut but his test was negative aswell. so do I need to wait for another three months in case he is in the window period were chances are high. am scared what is my risk due to the finger prink? do I need to test again?

    • In my opinion your tests are very indicative that you are free from hiv.
      However ,testing window period for different HIV test may be different from one another.

      please note that we are unable to verify the accuracy for your test. for that, please ask the doctor who has done the test for you.

  15. I had an episode with a guy right before Christmas 2016…he thought he had penetrated my anus to have rough anal sex but he was basically hitting the underside crease of my butt…he was ramming so hard that he broke the skin…then he ejaculated but i could actually feel it leak down my crack but not into it…i got up and wiped it out…when i got home, though, i noticed a smeared blood stain in my underwear…i know it came from him tearing the skin with his penis and then sitting on it driving back home…

    I guess my question is: Since there was no penetration of the anus or any mucous membrane but just a tear in the skin, if any leaked on it, is infection possible?

    • Fluid to fluid contact is necessary for HIV transmission . Theoretically, the risk of bacterial infection would be higher than an HIV infection with any blood contact onto an open wound.

      However , I recommend you getting tested for STD as you had unprotected sex.

      please note that this is not a medical advise. please visit us for a formal consultation . click here for the location.

  16. hi doctor,on december 15 2016,i had sex with a hooker,only vaginal intercourse with condom,on the next day whle i check my genital area,i spot some rashes on scotrum,with lil bit open but not fresh,now im worrying what if the hooker vaginal fluid come in contact with my rashes woun,and yesterday 21 jan 17,i took 4th gen test and the result come negative.but the counseler still ask me to take another test on 15 march 2017 to reconfirm,m i at risk

    • Of course you are at risk. You have made the wrong assumption that condoms are 100% effective in preventing HIV. They are not.

  17. Anxietymax

    Dear doc, recently I went for a hiv test , after the fingerprick, I help the alcohol swab for a few minutes and when I was about to dump the swab into the biohzard bin, I saw that there was blood stain on the bin. I am worried that my finger prick wound have got into contact with the blood. Presuming the blood was hiv+, will I get infected as my fresh ginger prick wound got contact with the blood?

    • If your finger came with contact with a surface, you would know it. Even if you did, and the blood was from a HIV +ve patient, you cannot get HIV like that.

  18. Hi Dr Tan really need your help

    I am frightened by a potential exposure i have. I had bought a sex toy called a fleshlight (artifical vagina) from an adult store(afraid the store looks dubious). I washed the exterior and interior with slightly hot water and dettol for around 10 minutes and inserted my penis in it to masturbate for around 20 minutes. I used the toy 2 hours after purchase. What i am afraid now is if someone else( eg the store owner) had used it previously and there was hiv semen/blood/fluids in it which could have given me a risk as the fleshlight is capped and in a vacuum so hiv could survive.
    In summary, I am really afraid that someone had used the fleshlight 2hours before as the adult store is dubious and i read online that hiv can stay alive in airtight enviroent for 2 weeks.

    Can i ask how long does hiv survive/stay infectious in porous airtight surfaces like in the porous cyber skin of the fleshlight and infect me?
    And whether i am at risk of infection from hiv and need to be tested?

    Cant sleep and am really regretting it.

    • As the fleshlight is airtight, can any hiv survive and enter via my urethra?

      Sorry but really need your assessment as i cant stop thinking about it!

      • I have not heard of HIV transmission via fomites such as sex toys, table tops, door handles etc. The only proven fomite transmission of HIV is via shared hypodermic needles and accidents involving surgical blades. However it is possible to catch STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia via shared sex toys.

  19. I bought a cigarette from a roadside stall and the guy who handed it to me had a fresh cut on his finger and this blood was on the stub of the cigarette
    I realized this only after I had smoked half the cigarette and noticed the blood and it was on my lips too
    I suffer from cracked lips and some mouth sores
    Can I get infected this way if the blood was HIV+?
    Do I need to get tested?
    The time between me buying the cigarette from him and smoking it was less than 1 minute
    Kindly advice
    Thank you

  20. Hello Dr, I am a gay man and I gave another man a handjob and let another man play with my penis for a few moments. Am I at risk of contracting HIV this way? I have not engaged in any intercourse or oral sex.

  21. 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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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 😉

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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,

  39. 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?

  40. 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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