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HIV transmission by salivaThe Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions
Jan 3, 1997

Hi, Rick. One month ago, I became intimately involved with a person who is HIV+. The intimacy was confined to deep kissing and, as far as I know, there was no exchange of blood. Three weeks after this encounter, I developed a fever, a very serious sore throat, a thick white coating on my tongue and many fever blisters (I have had herpes simplex, oral, since childhood). Merck manual indicates the earliest symptoms of HIV appear three to six weeks after exposure in 50 - 70 percent of those infected. Would you advise I take an HIV test or am I just being overly paranoid? Thanks very much.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

If you were only exposed to saliva, your risks of infection are very low. The concentrations of the HIV virus in saliva are so low, that nobody has ever been infected through saliva. Saliva would only pose a risk if there were visible blood in the saliva.

Because your symptoms were so general in nature, there is no way to know what was causing them. All we can say is that if you were only exposed to their saliva, it would be unlikely your symptoms were HIV related.

In regard to symptoms due to recent infection with HIV, this is called "Acute Viral Syndrome," and is seen in up to 70% of persons infected with HIV. Information about Acute Viral Syndrome is discussed in further detail in the question, "Acute Retroviral Syndrome."

The decision whether to be tested rests with you. But all I can say is that if you were only exposed to saliva, your risks of infection are very low. If you want to be tested, you need to wait 6 months after your last possible exposure to the virus. At 6 months, the tests are more than 99% accurate, as good as any test in medicine could ever be.

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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