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How soon does HIV die outside the body?

May 30, 1996

Sometimes the same medical expert will say at one point that the virus dies outside the body "within seconds," and then that it does outside the body "within a few minutes. As though those two things were the same and interchangeable! Obviously they aren't. So which is it? Five seconds? Thirty seconds? One minute? Five..

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

There is no one specific time point that the virus survives outside the body. But we can say that the virus will normally live only for several minutes. The more body fluid that there is, the longer the virus will survive outside the body. But normally, within a few minutes, the virus will be dead. The longer the virus is outside the body, the weaker the virus gets, and the less the chance of transmission. As an example, if you take a small drop of blood outside the body, the blood will dry rapidly and the virus will die rapidly. If you have a large quantity of blood outside the body, it will take longer for the blood to dry, and therefore, longer for the virus to die. The virus cannot live in dried blood. Luckily, the virus has evolved to survive only in the specific environment inside the human body. Once you take it out of the human body, it cannot survive. You can think of it another way. Think of a great white shark. In it's normal environment, it is a killing machine. Take that same shark and take it out of the water. The shark will be dead within a very short period of time and become totally harmless. HIV is the same way. In the human body, it is a killing machine. Take it outside of the human body, and it dies rapidly, and becomes totally harmless. If you have further questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me again.

Partners infected together - both being HIV Positive
Mucous Membranes/"Visible Blood"

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