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Quantity of the virus to get infected?

Aug 12, 1996

Many books that i have read told me that a person can't be infected by verysmall quantity of the virus. They said that to be nfected is necessary tohave a potential contact with infected fluids. Is it true?Another question that i have is: What happend with the virus in the enviroment.The virus can survive for more the one hour in a dry fluid?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

First of all, we know that the risks for infection from various body fluids vary greatly. Blood, pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, and breastmilk, all contain high concentrations of the virus, and all can lead to transmission of HIV. The greater the amounts of these body fluids that you are exposed to, the greater your risk would be.

Other body fluids like saliva, tears, sweat and urine, can have the virus in them, but the concentrations of HIV in these body fluids are so small, that none of these body fluids have led to transmission of HIV. Theoretically, transmission of HIV through these body fluids is possible, but realistically, the chances are so small that nobody has been infected with these body fluids in the 15+ years that we have been studying HIV. However, if any of these body fluids are visibly contaminated with blood, then there would be a significant risk of transmission with HIV.

Regarding survival of HIV in the environment, research studies have shown that HIV cannot survive in the environment outside the human body for more than a few minutes. However, the greater the amount of body fluids that are present, the longer that HIV will survive. Once the body fluid dries, the virus dies, since the virus cannot survive in a dry environment. The HIV virus has evolved to only survive in the enviroment specifically within the human body.

Think of it this way. Let's compare the HIV virus to the Great White Shark.

In it's normal environment (the ocean), the Great White Shark is a killing machine. If you take that same shark out of the ocean and on the beach, the shark will die within minutes and become totally harmless. The same is true with the HIV virus. In it's normal environment (inside the human body), the HIV virus is a killing machine. If you take this virus out of the human body, the virus will die within minutes and become totally harmless.

Simply put, the longer the virus is outside the body, the weaker it gets and the less the chance of transmission. Other viruses can survive outside the human body (like cold and flu viruses), but luckily, the HIV virus cannot.

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