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How long is it infectious?
Mar 23, 2013

Hello Doctor Wohl,

This may have been asked before and I don't mean to beat a dead horse but I am curious. How long does hiv, in body fluids, remain infectious outside of the body? A lot of people say that when the blood is dry that hiv is dead however others claim that it is unable to infect minutes, or even seconds, after leaving the body.

What if you had a pool of blood that remained wet but coagulated after thirty minutes and was on to that stage where it started to become sticky. Surely hiv would be dead by then wouldn't?

Thanks, Curious George

Response from Dr. Wohl

Dear Curious

Who knows? And, more importantly, does it matter? HIV is not transmitted by people splashing about in pools blood. It is a virus that has evolved to be transmitted via intimate contact between people. We do not get this infection from touching inanimate objects lying about.

This issue really is of importance when thinking about needle sharing. The dead space in a syringe can harbor a significant volume of blood and there are studies that virus can be retrieved in such fluid. But, whether there remains sufficient virus to cause an infection if this material is injected days later is unclear as the number of virus particles decays outside the ecological niche of the human body.

DW



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