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Exactly how long does HIV survive outside its host?

May 21, 2001

Hello. In several of yuor answers to the question on how long can HIV live outside the human body, it was stated ranging from few to several minutes. By how much is this 'few to several minutes'? How much constitutes few or several minutes? 1,5 or 20 minutes? Also, I read somewhere on the net that HIV survives for only a few seconds to several minutes, depending on the quanity of fliud. HIV in a drop of blood will last only a few seconds before dying completely, whereas HIV in a big pool of blood dies in a couple of minutes. Is this information reliable? Also, if infected fluid was left on a surface but wiped away promptly after, if an open sore came into contact with such a surface, is transmission still highly possible? One last question. Is any fluid more infectious than others? For example, is blood more risky than semen or are they all equally infectious? Thank you for looking through these queries and I would really appreciate if they can be answered as I really value your opinions.

Response from Mr. Kull

Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to your question. There are many different variables that will determine how long HIV infected fluid will remain infectious in the environment. The type of fluid, the quantity of fluid, the amount of virus in the fluid, the environment in which the fluid is exposed, the temperature of the environment, and other variables could influence viability. This makes it impossible to predict EXACTLY how long HIV will survive in every circumstance. One thing you can assume is that the greater the quantity of virus in fluid, the longer the fluid will remain infectious. For more information about this, please read through the CDC's publication "Survival of HIV in the Environment" (

The important thing to remember is that, as far as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are concerned, people are not infected by contact with fluids in their every day environment. So, whether HIV survives for 1 minute or for 15 minutes is ultimately irrelevant. It is extremely unlikely that you will get infected unless you are engaging in sexual or needle-sharing contact.


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