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public toilet water The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions
Jan 22, 1997

A few years ago, in my youth, I was using a public toilet. Having been in the toilet stall for at least 10 minutes, I found that I was in a hurry to leave and was not finished cleaning myself after defecation. After flushing the toilet at least 4 or 5 times during the course of the time that I was at the toilet, I dipped a piece of toilet paper into the toilet water and used it to clean myself. I remember that the toilet was clean and white, but in recollection, I cannot remember how thouroughly I checked the toilet to see how clean it was. What would be the risk of HIV transmission from this occurence. Could you give me some information on research conducted on sewage/ toilet water transmission? Could there possibly be small or miniscule cuts etc. in the beginning of the anal canal into which toilet water could have reached? Or is it normal that there would be small/miniscule cuts etc. on the buttocks that I was not aware of(I do not remember there being any on the buttocks). Please answer my question and thank you very much for the invaluable proffesional dialogue that you provide myself and the public.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) are NOT transmitted via public toilets. So despite the circumstances you described, you would not be at risk for HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's).

The following goes into more detail as to how HIV is transmitted:

Blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, and breastmilk all contain high concentrations of HIV, and all have been linked to transmission of the virus.

Saliva, tears, sweat, and urine can have the virus in them, but in such small concentrations that nobody has ever been infected through them. However, if any body fluid is visibly contaminated with blood, the risk of transmission exists.

The HIV virus must get into the bloodstream in order to infect you. If it doesn't get into the bloodstream, you will not get the infection. Blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, or breastmilk must have direct access to your bloodstream in order to infect you. Activities where this can happen include vaginal intercourse (both partners), anal intercourse (both partners), giving oral sex, sharing needles (IV, tattoo etc.), and rarely through receiving a blood transfusion. HIV can also be transmitted from mother to child. HIV is NOT transmitted through any form of casual contact (including public toilets).

In summary, in order for infection to occur, 3 things must happen:

1) You must be exposed to pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, blood, or breastmilk.

2) The virus must get directly into your bloodstream through some fresh cut, open sore, abrasion etc.

3) Transmission must go directly from 1 person to the other very quickly.....the virus does not survive more than a few minutes outside the body.

No matter what the circumstances are, if you think about these 3 criteria for transmission, you'll be able to determine whether you're at risk for HIV or not. Let me re-emphasize that HIV has never been transmitted via toilet water or sewage water, since the virus cannot survive outside the human body for more than a few minutes.

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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