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Virus Concentration and HIV Immunity The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions

Feb 3, 1997

Hi. I have two questions. You frequently mention that there is a very low concentration of HIV in saliva and therefore the possibility of transmission is very remote. Is not a single HIV particle entering the bloodstream able to reproduce into millions/billions of particles in a few days ? Also I have heard that a few babies born from HIV+ mothers were found to be immune to HIV virus (in some regions of Africa). Is this claim authentic ? Thank you very much for your time and attention.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your questions.

Theoretically, if a single HIV virus particle enters the bloodstream, it could reproduce quickly and a person could be infected. Theoretically, just about anything is possible. However, we have to look at things realistically, rather than theoretically. Realistically, the chances of someone becoming infected via saliva is very remote. The concentrations of the HIV virus in saliva is very small. The chances of one of those few virus particles getting into a persons bloodstream, is possible, but highly unlikely. In body fluids containing high concentrations of HIV (like blood, semen, or vaginal secretions), the chances of someone becoming infected are much greater, since there are many more virus particles around to have a chance to get into the bloodstream. The more virus that's present, the greater the chance of infection. Theoretically, it is possible to get infected through saliva. However realistically, the chances are very remote.

In regard to babies being born immune to the HIV virus, this has never been proven. There have been a few RARE cases of babies being born infected with the HIV virus, and then mysteriously, were no longer infected a few months later. The baby may have been born with a defective strain of HIV that simply couldn't survive in the body. Or there may have been something about the babies immune system that somehow overcame the infection. But to date, we don't know which one is true. There's no proof that the babies were immune to HIV. All we can say at this point is that somehow, in these rare cases, babies that were born with HIV, were later found to no longer be infected. We do not know how this happened. We can just say that on rare occasions it has happened. Researchers are now trying to find out why this occurred.

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

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