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Can I get HIV from handling rented adult video tapes?

Feb 26, 1997

Thank you for the valuable advice you provide to the general public. I recently read at CDC'w web site and realize a potential risky behavior of mine. It seems that "drying" HIV can survive outside the body for several hours. From time to time, I masturbated while I was watching rented adult videos. Although, I always washed my hands right after masturbation, I suspect most people don't. Thus, I can imagine the possibility for previous renters to leave their semen on the tapes. Since I don't have a habit to wash my hands before masturbation, is that possible for my hands to get HIV virus from the tapes and transmitted to my body through masturbation? Can we be sure that HIV virus in "dried" state are not in fectious? Thank you very much.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

HIV will not survive outside the body for more than a few minutes. This issue is addressed in greater detail in my question, "How long does HIV survive outside the body?". In fact, the website you mentioned never said HIV lives for hours outside the body (at natural concentrations). Let me tell you exactly what they stated:

"Although HIV has been kept alive or viable under certain laboratory conditions, medical authorities agree that the virus does not survive well in the environment. To put things into perspective, 1 milliliter of blood from a hepatitis B-infected person may contain more than 100 million infectious viral particles. In a dried state, hepatitis B virus, or HBV, may remain viable on surfaces for up to 1 week, and possibly longer. In contrast to the very high concentrations of HBV, the concentrations of HIV in the blood of infected persons are much lower. Estimates of the number of infectious viral particles range from a few hundred to approximately 10,000 per milliliter.

CDC laboratory studies have shown that drying HIV reduces the viral amounts by 90 to 99 percent within several hours. The concentrations of HIV used in some laboratory studies have produced results that have been used to alarm people unnecessarily. The results are not meaningful because: 1) the concentrations of HIV used were many times greater than that found in patient specimens; 2) the amounts of virus studied are not found in nature; and 3) no one has been infected with HIV due to contact with an environmental surface."

Remember, studies that were used to determine the survival of HIV outside the body, used concentrations of the virus that were much higher than those found in nature. There is NO evidence that HIV will survive outside the body for hours, at concentrations naturally found in body fluids.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

How long does HIV survive outside the body?

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